History, of sorts, was made when Mohammed Aman became the first Ethiopian to win a world outdoor 800m title as he kicked hard coming off the final bend to snatch the gold medal on Tuesday night (13).
The spectacular victory in Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium supersedes his 2012 World indoor 800m title and came against a terrific field. To make the result even sweeter his winning time of 1:43.31 is his fastest of the season.
Until now his countrymen have dominated 5000m, 10,000m and Marathon podiums, but Aman – a sprinter-turned-middle-distance star – has ignited a new flame of belief among the youth of his country.
Still, only 19 years of age and the youngest man to win a medal in his event, let alone a gold, Aman understands the significance of his accomplishment.
“Ethiopians are known for Marathons and for long distance and now middle distances so I am very happy,” said Aman, who learned English in high school and practices by watching movies and reading.
“Anything is possible. I train in Ethiopia and I have a good Ethiopian coach (Negusse Gechamo). I train in Entoto, Sendafa and around Addis. I train with the national team. There are many national team members in Addis.”
The race itself was exemplary championship running as Aman escaped from a box created by the two US runners, Duane Solomon and Nick Symmonds, and ran down the latter to steal the gold medal in the last 20 metres.
Asked if he was confident or nervous coming into the final, the native of Assela – a small town south east of Addis Ababa, which coincidentally is Haile Gebrselassie’s home town – smiled.
“I don’t know. I had the confidence, I won four Diamond League races and so I am very confident,” he admits. “But it’s the World Championships so there’s a bit more stress. It’s a championship, you have to be careful to win this one.
“The truth is I didn’t think too much about the race last night. I slept. My coach called me and said: ‘what are you doing? ’ I didn’t think about the race, I just focused on getting rest.”
This is the man who inflicted two rare defeats upon the mighty David Rudisha, the only ones he suffered in 2011 and 2012, who is resting a knee injury, beating the Kenyan World record-holder in Zurich last year and in Milan the year before.
Unfortunately for the teenage Ethiopian, the absence of the World record-holder and Olympic champion has been noticed by some aficionados who erroneously believe that his gold medal has been somewhat devalued.
Moments after the semi-finals in Moscow, Aman responded to these comments.
“I am very sad for him because injuries are very hard on athletes,” he said. “I am very sorry for him, but I don’t do sport for Rudisha, though, I do it for me. I didn’t say that because Rudisha is not involved, that the gold is for me. I didn’t say that because there are some very strong athletes here.”
Aman will have to wait until Thursday to gets his hands on his prize. Moscow 2013 organisers have scheduled his awards ceremony then because there is no evening session on Wednesday.
The impending celebration will also have to wait as he plans to wrap up his 2013 Diamond Race title in Brussels on 6 September before heading home.
“After Brussels I will go directly to see my mum,” he said with a huge smile.
“She saw me run in Daegu and then London. She expects me to win and I didn’t. Now it is my time so I will go directly to my mum and see my family and celebrate there. My mum, my dad and other Ethiopians, we have traditional ways to celebrate with a party.”
Aman has a firm grip on the Diamond Race. Victory in Brussels would cap off one brilliant season for a history-making Ethiopian, and perhaps make it an even bigger party in Assela early next month when he finally returns home.
Paul Gains for the IAAF