The new phenomenon of the Spanish midfield, which has broken three Spanish records in a month, aims to surprise at 5,000 meters in Tokyo. “Before I was not bad,” he warns
- Katir The sudden Spanish phenomenon of the middle ground that already aspires to gold in Tokyo: he reads poetry, trains in a field and his father arrived in a boat
No irruption in the months leading up to the Games experienced Spanish sport like that of Mohamed Katir (Alcazarquivir, Morocco, 1998). Suddenly, a midfielder capable of rubbing shoulders with the world African elite, of breaking Spanish records – three in a month: 1,500, 5,000 and 3,000 meters, consecutively – anchored in the past. After a previous concentration in Torrevieja to partly acclimatize to the Tokyo heat and humidity, where he even began to sleep with Japanese schedules, Mo responds to EL MUNDO from the Olympic Village with a nervous smile, a mixture of confidence, modesty and nervous about his debut in a Games. “I feel like in my hometown. I come as a rookie and to enjoy being an Olympian, which was my dream. I arrive with a lot of motivation and a lot of desire. And I have not had any problem with the time change. I am super great, with a lot of desire to compete already “, receives.
Mo doesn’t like being asked about his sudden improvement, in those world elite times. “There is no secret, this is hard work, rest, nutrition … I train very, very hard, with a lot of quality,” he responds, twisting his face these days at the insistence of a journalist. Moreover, he vindicates that effort in the shadows, because, those who know him best say, that “he has tattooed the values” of the effort of his family, “humble, of a working class.” The boy resides in Mula (Murcia) and his father traveled decades ago in a boat to Spain.
On Tuesday it will be his turn at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo, the semifinal of the 5,000, where he goes with the 12: 50.79 that he achieved on June 10 in Florence to shatter the Spanish record of 2010 (Alemayehu Bezabeh), a brand that could grant him a medal unthinkable long ago, when he competed in popular pedestrian routes, when he forged himself in the open fields of Mula, when he won Spanish championships without being able to get on the podium because he did not have nationality (they were given the last 2019 day). “There are people who have more experience. I am going to fight it, but I come as a rookie. This is a Games,” he confesses.
The change came from the hand of Gabriel Ruiz, a very young 31-year-old coach from Murcia with whom he works since last October, who also forges other elite athletes such as Mariano Garcia. “Gabi is a very good coach. When there is a coach who has studied for that, it will benefit you too. Thanks to him I have been able to do new things and that gives me benefits, advantages,” he says. As, for example, the concentrations in height, three in Sierra Nevada and one in Font Romeu (France). Or the varied and demanding sessions that Mo adapts to with hardly any physical resentment. “There has not been a day with discomfort, not one that told me that it was loaded,” admits Ruiz, who reveals that one of the keys was the new stimuli that Katir received by leaving her discoverer and lifelong coach, Cristobal Carlos Ramirez, of the Mulasport Athletics Club. That’s where maybe it all started.
- Are you worried about expectations?
- People demand that I bring medals, this is not the people’s race, it is very difficult. I’m going to go out to enjoy it and fight it. I come with some very good brands, but it does not mean that I can catch sheet metal.
- How do you assimilate your own progression, are you surprised at the level you have given?
- I do not know. I have trained very well. Knowing the workouts that I have done, I knew that I could make a great mark. I never imagined making a record in Spain, except for one of 1,500 (Fermín Cacho, 1997) that many tried and no one was even close to lowering it. I don’t know how to explain it, it’s something I couldn’t explain.
- From winning popular races to a Games. Could I have imagined it?
- I wasn’t bad, huh. Before it was not bad [insiste], I have been winning in cross since I was a junior in the second year. I got to win it four consecutive years, but they did not give me the medal for the issue of nationality. That was hard, really. But I knew that one day they were going to give it to me, I just had to be patient. And keep working in my sport.
- How or with whom do you work mentally? Are you still reading and writing poetry these days?
- Mentally I work alone. And yes, in poetry I have found one more way to focus, to motivate myself. Writing suits me well.
- But for yourself …
- I prefer to keep it to myself, because I am ashamed of those things. Sometimes I upload something on my social networks. I’m still not used to it, I’m ashamed to teach them.
- For those who do not know him, what is Mo Katir like outside of athletics?
- A normal boy. I do not like to feel superior to others, I hate those who are like that. I’m a normal guy, who does his thing. If I don’t know you, maybe I’m embarrassed.
- When did it start?
- Before I played football with Huesca, I was there for two years. But I was better at running, much better. When I went down to my town (Mula) again, I decided to change my sport. Time passed and I saw that it was good for running and not for football.
- What are your parents saying to you now, these days?
- They are super happy that their son is with the best in the world. Super proud, happy.
- Jakob Ingebrigtsen has given up 5,000 to focus on 1,500. The other way around you. One less rival …
- But everyone will want to get a medal, it will be hard. The favorites are Joshua Cheptegei and Kiplimo, the Ugandans. But there are six or seven that may be there.
- What type of career is right for you?
- I prefer it fast. With Cheptegei there, that guy, as he is not fast, will start from the beginning with a very strong rhythm. In a slow one the possibilities can be opened to many others.