“I don’t know how to explain the feelings I have when I have the two records. It is a pride, yes. I came out of nowhere. I can not explain it”. It is almost midnight when Mohamed Katir leaves the anti-doping station at the Louis II stadium in Monaco. Three hours after finishing second in the 1,500m test of the Diamond League after the world champion, the Kenyan Tim Cheruiyot, beating the Spanish record of the 1,500m (3m 28.76s) that Fermín Cacho had from the beginning. August 13, 1997 (3m 28.95s), the athlete from Mula (Murcia) still, of course, has not lowered the heat, nor has he gotten off the cloud. A month ago he had already beaten in Florence, a night of cold, rain and wind, the national record of 5,000m (12m 50.79s).
The voice gives him away when he answers the phone. “I’m very happy,” sings 23-year-old Katir, surpassing a record that has been in place for a year before he was born, a proclamation that doesn’t accompany the usual “I can’t believe it” or “it’s incredible.” On the contrary, he says: “Of course I expected this brand, of course. I was getting some very good workouts, and I had to go out yes or yes. I never consider the fear of not knowing how to compete. I’ve always thought that if you do your job well it always has to come out. And although the fans are torn between admiration and surprise, and a certain more than skepticism, historical pessimism of reason, since the history of Spanish and world athletics is full of shooting and false stars, Katir does not wrinkle, nor does she hide her ambitions , when he talks. “Of course I thought of passing Cheruiyot, the Kenyan world champion, who will not be in Tokyo. But he has much more experience and has known how to run better. In a year, that will happen ”, says Katir, who would like to meet in person and talk to Cacho, who everyone talks about, about his gold in Barcelona 92 (3m 40.12s).
His confidence, his self-assurance, attests to Jorge González Amo, Spanish record holder of 1,500m (3m 40s) between 1968 and 1977, until the irruption of José Manuel Abascal, and national head of mediofondo. “A few weeks ago Katir already warned me that in Monaco I was going to run in 3m 30s, and she has run even more …”, says González Amo, admired and happy for the evolution of his specialty, and only regrets that Ignacio Fontes and Jesús Gómez, two of the Spaniards in the 1,500m for Tokyo, would not have raced in Monaco, which would have allowed them to improve their records in a second. “In Monte Carlo you always get about 1,500 magnificent ones. This year, the first 12 fell from 3m 32s and there was a record for Oceania and Poland, apart from Spain ”, says González Amo. “And it is natural to be a little skeptical about the disappointments we have suffered, but we must not forget that we are talking about a brand from almost 30 years ago, and that then there were a few touching the 3m 30s and lowering it …”.
As a simultaneous Spanish record holder of 1,500m and 5,000m, Katir equals another of the mythical Spanish midfielders, José Luis González, from Toledo, who between 1987 and 1996 simultaneously held both Spanish records (3m 30.92s and 13m 12.34s). With a white and a black sock and her pink Asics with carbon plate, super-reactive foams and mini graphene claws on the sole instead of nails, Katir became in Monaco the 10th world athlete in history (and second of the season ) of the 1,500m, 2.76s from the world record, Hicham El Guerruj’s 3m 26s, and eight hundredths from the European record, held by Norwegian adolescent phenomenon Jakob Ingebrigtsen.
His 12m 50.79s in 5,000 make him 27th in the history of 5,000 and the fourth of the year, in a list led by Jakob Ingebrigtsen himself (12m 48.45s). “I could turn in Tokyo and run both distances,” says Katir, of a Moroccan father and an Egyptian mother who emigrated to Spain when Mohamed was five years old. “But my coach, Gaby Llorente, and I agree that it is better to run one well, butt, than two half”. In Tokyo he will run the 5,000m.
“He traces the very hard training of Ingebrigtsen to him”, reveals Miguel Mostaza, the manager who was Cacho’s and now Katir’s, “and I already advised him to stick to him in the race and try to overwhelm him with his magnificent long finish. Katir is not an athlete with an explosive finish, with an atomic change in the last meters, but he does have a great capacity to maintain a very high speed in the last 600m. It reminds me a bit of Reyes Estévez ”. Ingebrigtsen is his model and his example, and surpasses him by 1,500 Monegasques for the first time in his career, with what comes, in a way, the defeats that the European record holder inflicted on him in the fight to take over the treadmill of the Center High Performance of Sierra Nevada (Granada), where both lead the life of a monk for several months a year. “My plan for the next few days is to run a 3,000m in London on Tuesday, July 13, but only thinking about winning, not setting a mark. Then I will go to my house in Mula for a week, since I have not seen my family for two months, and on the 21st, to Tokyo, where I will go for everything, although there will be great rivals in 5,000m “, explains Katir, an athlete who started late with athletics, at age 18, in a town, Mula, which has no athletic track, and which, not a year ago, was hardly known because its best marks (3m 36.59s in 1,500m and 13m 50 , 19s in 5,000) were not world-class. His great leap forward began last winter, after enjoying solitary and cloistered training due to the pandemic, when he ran the 3,000m of Karlsruhe on the indoor track in 7m 35.29s, sixth best world time of the year.
“But that that was unknown must be qualified,” says González Amo, who values how the children of immigrants who succeed have double merit because it is much more difficult to get ahead with all the obstacles they have to overcome, and they come out stronger. “Two years ago, when I was a second-year U-23, I beat all the best Spaniards at rallies, but since I still didn’t have Spanish nationality [la obtuvo a los 21, el 31 de diciembre de 2019] He was not in our rankings and people did not notice him ”.
Katir, explains González Amo, runs easily and moves fluently, passes forward without twitching, at very high rates, and his hair flies behind him, with his head thrown back. “And, no, I am not going to cut my hair, although in Mula temperatures above 42 degrees are expected these days, before roasting heat than cutting my hair”, defends Katir one of his distinctive signs, his black hair to the mid back, his sense of personality. “And lest if I cut it, it happens to me like Samson …”.
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