April 24, 2019 / 2:50 PM / 3 months ago

UPDATE 3-Athletics-Farah in dispute with Gebrselassie over theft at Ethiopian's hotel

    * Briton loses cash and watch from suitcase in room
    * Gebrselassie denies Farah accusation 
    * Farah hoping to improve marathon best in London on Sunday
    * World record holder Kipchoge seeking fourth London title

 (Adds quotes and details)
    By Mitch Phillips
    LONDON, April 24 (Reuters) - Britain's Mo Farah, who will be
running in the London Marathon on Sunday, is in dispute with
fellow distance-running great Haile Gebrselassie for failing to
help him after he was robbed at a hotel in Addis Ababa owned by
the Ethiopian.
    Farah, third last year and facing a monumental challenge to
overcome Kenya's world record holder and defending champion
Eliud Kipchoge in Sunday's race, said around 2500 pounds
($3,230) - in four currencies - two mobile phones and a valuable
watch presented to him by his wife were stolen from a locked
suitcase in his room while he was out on a training run on his
36 birthday on March 23. 
    Farah said he got little help from hotel staff in dealing
with the issue and even less from Gebrselassie, a national icon
in Ethiopia after a stunning track career that earned him two
Olympic golds and four world titles over 10,000m and several
world records.
   "He didn’t respond even though that’s his hotel," four-times
Olympic champion Farah told reporters at the London Marathon
launch on Wednesday.
    Farah was so furious that Gebrselassie ignored his repeated
texts and calls that he shared the last he sent, that threatened
to publicly shame the Ethiopian.
    "I want to inform you that I'm disappointed you have not
made any effort to find my stolen money, and especially my
watch," he wrote. 
    "I have tried to contact you by telephone several times.
Know that I am not responsible for what I say during the press
conference in London and what influence it will have on your
personality and your business." He signed off: "Sir Mo."
    Later on Wednesday Gebrselassie fired back at Farah in a
press release, calling his claim of robbery "unproven".
    Gebrselassie said Farah declined to use a safe box offered
to him or give the money to a hotel official for safekeeping.
    Gebrselassie, a former world record holder and current
president of the Ethiopian Athletics Federation, said the matter
was immediately reported to police, who interviewed five hotel
employees but decided not to bring charges against any of them.
    He added that despite a 50 percent discount on the room
rate, Farah failed to pay a service bill of 2,313 pounds
($3,000).
    "I found today's accusations made by Mo with unproven
premises, as an act of defamation on my hard earned reputation
and business," he said in a release posted on LetsRun.com. here
    "Following this my lawyers will deal with the matter
accordingly," Gebrselassie said. 
    A spokesperson for Farah told the BBC late on Wednesday that
he was disappointed with Gebrselassie's statement. 
    "Mo disputes all of these claims, which are an effort to
distract from the situation, where members of his hotel staff
used a room key and stole money and items from Mo Farah's room
(there was no safe as it was faulty, and Mo requested a new
one).
    "Police reports confirm the incident and the hotel admitted
responsibility and were in contact with Mo's legal advisor.
    "The hotel even offered to pay Mo the amount stolen, only to
withdraw the offer when he prematurely left the hotel and moved
to other accommodation due to security concerns.
    "Despite many attempts to discuss this issue privately with
Mr Gebrselassie, he did not respond but now that he has, we
would welcome him or his legal team getting in touch so that
this matter can be resolved."
    
    TASK AT HAND 
    Farah will need all his focus to be back on the task in hand
on Sunday as although the race is widely seen as something of a
head-to-head between him and the peerless Kipchoge, the Briton
is only the eighth-fastest man in the field and his best of
2:05.11 is almost four minutes adrift of Kipchoge's astonishing
world record of 2:01.39, set in Berlin.
    The Kenyan, who has won 10 of his 11 marathons, including
the 2016 Olympic Games, is seeking an unprecedented fourth
London win and would need to have something of an off-day to
open the door for any of his rivals, but Farah said he was not
turning up "expecting to finish third or fourth."
    "You look up to these guys, you have to learn from the best
and I have learned from each race I've done," he said. 
    "I think I could have gone 2.04-something in Chicago (where
he set a European record of 2:05:11 while winning last year) but
it was about winning the race. 
    "Last year in London when Eliud increased the pace at around
20 miles I went with it a bit but just felt tired and in my mind
I felt 'I cant keep that going' and you end up taking it back a
notch. But I am here to race and will give 100 percent as I
always do."
    
    EXTRA ENDURANCE
    Farah said he had underestimated the volume of training
required to convert his track speed into the extra endurance
needed for 26.2 miles on the road, but that he was enjoying the
challenge.
    "The most important thing is that I’m happy and enjoying
it," he said. "I’m still hungry, I feel like I’ve got my mojo
back."
    While Farah and Kipchoge fight it out at the sharp end,
around 40,000 others will be pounding the streets of London
behind them in what organisers say is the world's most popular
race.
    "We had 415,000 applications in five days," said race
director Hugh Brasher. "This weekend we will reach one billion
pounds raised for charity by runners, with more than half of
that coming in the last nine years."
    In the first race in 1981, co-founded by his father and
former Olympic gold medallist Chris Brasher, five percent of
finishers were female, while this year that figure is expected
to be around 45 percent.

 (Reporting by Mitch Phillips, Additional reporting by Rory
Carroll in Los Angeles, editing by Christian Radnedge and Pritha
Sarkar)
  
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