Belgium's Bekele getting in shape to defend cross country crown | 18.10.2012
|Defending champion Atelaw Bekele of Belgium is
determined to stand on top of the podium once
again at the SPAR European Cross Country
Championships in Budapest on 9 December.
The 2012 SPAR European Cross country Championships will be held in Szentendre, which is on the banks of the Danube just north of the capital Budapest.
Bekele took Belgium's first-ever victory in the senior men's race at last year's Championships with a splendid gun-to-tape effort in Velenje, Slovenia.
However, his last race came in March and his ambitions of competing for the medals over 10,000m at this summer's European Athletics Championships thwarted by injury and then illness.
"In the spring, I Injured an Achilles tendon and when it had healed I fell ill when I was training at high altitude in Ethiopia.
"I was training at 1700m twice a day and running up to 170km a week. At the end of my time there, I was sick. It's only now, after a recent visit to a tropical institute here, I know what's going on," Bekele told a press conference in the Belgian town of Beringen on Wednesday.
"I have a tapeworm and there were three parasites in my blood. I am still taking medication and in Ghent will not be at my best but then I go back to Addis Ababa and prepare for the European Cross Country Championship," he added, announcing his participation in the Lotto Cross Country Relays van Oost-Vlaanderen in Ghent on Sunday, which will be his first race for more than seven months.
After racing in Ghent, Bekele will go back to Ethiopia, where he was born, for almost a calendar month before returning to Belgium for his final preparations ahead of the SPAR European Cross country Championships.
"I'm back only a few days before I compete in Roeselare (the European Athletics Cross Country Permit meeting there on 25 November). The aim then is to defend my European title in a worthy fashion and then continue to compete in the Crosscup (Belgium's domestic cross country series), which I want to win for the second time."
D'Hoedt, the 2009 SPAR European Cross Country Championships junior men's winner, was fourth in the 2010 under 23 race but missed last year's event in Velenje because of a knee injury.
Szentendre represents the last chance for the talented D'Hoedt to get on the under 23 men's podium but he has also been battling ailments this summer.
"My knee problems are behind us but in the summer I was ill. Only recently have I has found the cause.
"During my spell training in the US (during the late spring), I contracted a form of glandular fever. I'm still far from my best form," admitted D'Hoedt, although he hopes to make a rapid recovery in the next two months and is likely to make his winter debut in Roeselare.