Athletics: Steeplechase great Saif Saaeed retires

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Nairobi—Two-time world 3000 metres steeplechase champion and world record-holder Saif Saaeed Shaheen announced his retirement on Friday after failing to overcome a long-term achilles tendon injury.
The 33-year-old Kenyan-born athlete, who caused an international furore when he defected to Qatar in 2003, said the injury had taken its toll on his career and he could not risk running again.
“It is time to call it a day. Running isn’t the only thing that can occupy one’s life. There are other things to do,” Shaheen told AFP from the Kenyan north-west town of Eldoret, where he has settled down to run a family business.
“I tried to start training again last week, after taking a full year to recuperate, but the leg started swelling. There is no point of making a come back.”
Shaheen, formerly known as Stephen Cherono, was among the first Kenyan athletes to change their nationality. He won several gold medals under the Qatari colours, including the 2003 and 2005 World championships.
He was barred from competing in the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) changed its rules, preventing athletes from competing for their new countries before a three-year lapse period.
In his absence, Kenyan Ezekiel Kemboi won the Olympic gold medal title, ahead of two other compatriots, Brimin Kipruto and Paul Kipsiele Koech.
After failing to compete in the Olympics, Shaheen went on to smash the world record steeplechase record in September 2004, clocking 7:53.63 in Brussels.
“It might take some time before the record is broken once again,” said Shaheen. “Several runners, including Kemboi, have made attempts to break it recently but it might take awhile.”
Injuries prevented Shaheen from making a successful comeback, and though he sought treatment in Germany, the tendinitis in his patella worsened and the achilles tendon injury failed to completely get healed.—AFP

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