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IAAF Interview with Eritrean Gold Medalist Ghirmay Ghebreslassie

Gold Medalist Ghirmay Ghebreslassie (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

By Steve Landells

Ghirmay Ghebreslassie was a surprise winner of the men’s marathon title at the IAAF World Championships, Beijing 2015. We chat to the Eritrean teenager to find out more about the gifted 19-year-old gold medallist.

My best achievement in athletics
Even though I have won other races and I performed well to finish seventh at the 2014 IAAF World Half Marathon Championships, my gold medal in the marathon at the World Championships was a special moment, not only for me but for Eritrea.

My greatest rival
I have not been on the scene for long but I would say my toughest opponents were former world marathon record-holder Wilson Kipsang and current world marathon record-holder Dennis Kimetto. I competed against both of them in the World Championships marathon in Beijing. I really appreciate their achievements in the sport.

The best piece of coaching advice
Veron Lust is the only professional coach I have ever worked with and I like his programme, which has been good for my growth as an athlete. In training, one thing he says is to 'know my pace’ because running a marathon is all about pace judgement. He likes to ride a motorbike alongside me when I’m training and this helps me control my pace.

My best friend in athletics
I have two. One is Kibrom Ghebrezgiabhier, a 2:09:36 marathoner who helps me out with the long runs, and Merhani Kesete, the Hamburg Half Marathon winner, who helps me out with the shorter stuff. Whether it is something to do with my training or my personal situation, they are a massive help. I cannot choose a favourite.

The best athletics venue
Hengelo in Holland, which is the place I started my track career. It is one of the fastest tracks around and is a really great track for seeing world records and breaking personal bests. Haile Gebrselassie and Kenenisa Bekele have both broken world records there. It is a very nice track.

My greatest disappointment
Injury is the worst thing and something I hate. I have generally been very lucky in avoiding injuries but last year I picked up an injury ahead of the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships, which was a big disappointment.

My greatest weakness
I have some weaknesses, nobody is perfect. I am very serious about my training situation but I can be a bit lazy about my feeding system. I think that is the reason why at the Hamburg Marathon (where he finished second in April) I did not have good speed for the last 2km and the guy from Kenya (Lucas Rotich) beat me. I did not take on board any food. Sometimes, I forget to take on board food.

The best athlete I have ever seen
Even though Zersenay Tadese, my fellow countryman, has his own history as a five-time world half marathon champion and a world cross-country gold medallist, I still believe Haile Gebrselassie is the special one. It is not only that he set numerous world records and won lots of gold medals, but also his longevity in the sport and the fact he is such a social person.

My best achievement outside of athletics
Hopefully, what I have done in athletics can help have an impact more generally on the Eritrean people. Hopefully I’ve helped raise the profile of what people can achieve in Eritrea and given them a lot of pleasure. I hope that my achievements can help inspire others to reach higher standards no matter what field they want to succeed in.

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