Paul Tergat man with a mission
Sean Wallace-Jones for IAAF
5-6 February 2000 - Vilamoura - On the eve of the 24th Almond Blossom Cross Country, the man who has five World Cross Country Championship Titles under his belt and is aiming for a sixth, when the World Championships takes place here on 18-19 March appears relaxed and confident.
The man is, of course, 30-year-old Paul Tergat, the Kenyan athlete who has indelibly placed his mark on the World Cross Country Championships, with his five consecutive victories in the event.
Tergat appears relaxed, but he in no way underestimates the difficulties he will face here in March: "You know, it is not easy to try to defend the title for a sixth time; there are a lot of people out there who would like to beat me," he says, sipping a tea in his hotel in Vilamoura.
"The course looks like it is going to be very fast and probably dry, which suits me; but it will also suit a lot of other people. This is an ideal course for the athletes who have been running 5-10,000 metres on the track."
Of course, Tergat can expect some help from "Team Kenya" in the Championships, but even this does not ensure victory: "A lot of other people have seen the way we interact on the course and they are all preparing to use the same tactics. It is not like it was in the past. In the old days we could break way and run together, now, you make a break and everyone follows."
Tergat was not originally scheduled to compete in the Almond Blossom, but decided to make the trip so as to get the feel of the course and better prepare for the March battle for the World Cross Country Crown.
What are his chances of victory? "We will see, like I said, there will be a lot of people out to beat me and in competition, nothing is ever won in advance."