Ethiopia’s Haile Gebrselassie has said it is ‘heart-breaking’ for athletes to have trained for races only for them to be cancelled because of the coronavirus.
The athletics great and former Olympic champion says some young runners in Ethiopia have been asking him in earnest about their future.
A series of high-profile races and championships across the world have been cancelled in recent days because of the outbreak.
“The athletes here in Ethiopia, especially the youngsters who have a dream (and) who want to run for the first time, you can see the heartbreak,” he told the BBC.
“They think there will be no chance in future – that’s what some of them are asking.”
In recent weeks, the World Indoor Championships, which had been scheduled to be held at the end of this week (13-15 March), in China – the source of the outbreak – were postponed by 12 months.
Meanwhile, the World Half Marathon Championships in Poland have been rescheduled from 29 March until 17 October.
Elsewhere, a raft of marathons and half-marathons across the world have been either postponed or simply cancelled, including a marathon in the Chinese city of Wuhan where the outbreak originated.
“Imagine after such hard training, after such long training, (being told there is) no race in China, no race in Europe, no race in America, no competition – it’s really hard,” added Gebrselassie.
“Many of our athletes were prepared for those races. As a retired athlete, when I look back at my time, [if] someone told me after my long preparation that this race is cancelled, just imagine. It’s really heart-breaking.”