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Marathon coach speaks out on athletics

Marathon coach speaks out on athletics

Haji Adelo – a former long distance runner who has taken part in African Championships held in South Africa - has won the Austria marathon two times. But due to his injury, his promising athletics career ended earlier than expected. However, his passion for long distance running led him to coach various athletes individually. A number of popular athletes have archived several titles under his management. Coach Haji Adelo now manages more than 115 different athletes. Furthermore, he has an agreement with China Athletics Federation (CAF) enabling him to coach 8 Chinese athletes. Following IAAF’s decision to cancel the 5000m and 10000m races from the Diamond League, Haji urges the IAAF to reconsider the decision. Dawit Tolesa of The Reporter caught up with Haji to discuss about his coaching career and the current movement of athletics in Ethiopia. Excerpts:

The Reporter:  How is coaching athletics in Ethiopia?

Haji Adelo: Well, I grew up in a place where many popular athletes come from, and I was a runner too. So, it was not difficult for me to become a coach. I have received a coaching license from the Ethiopian Athletics Federation (EAF). However, the main thing is not about the license, rather it is about having an experience and knowing the profession deeply. It is not to mean that coaching is a simple job. You have to understand everything linked with athletes and athletics. Being a coach is a tough job. So, first you have to be committed, you have to do follow-ups, and be a hard worker. A Number of coaches and managers are working with different athletes across the country.

You have been coaching various athletes who are skilled, to participate in the international arena. How do you evaluate yourself regarding the results?

Since 2006, in my coaching career, many athletes were trained and have competed in different races. Several athletes, those who have trained under my management, have participated in international races, earned a lot of money and became a prominent figure all over the world. They have participated in the IAAF world athletics championships, Olympics and personal competitions. Dirba Mirga, Feyisa Lelisa, Tadese Tola and Lelisa Desisa are some of the prominent athletes to note. Currently, we have more than 70 marathon runners and based on our successful journeys made before, many athletes are looking to join my program. So, I think am doing good so far and it will continue to the next level.

Nowadays, a number of athletes are turning to road-racing and many foreign managers are managing Ethiopian athletes. What do you want to say about this issue?

Well, during my athletics career, there were many track competitions of 5000m, 10000m and cross-country races. I remember cross-country races were held on weekly bases in some European countries. Eventually, the race changed to once in two year bases. During that time, there were also different category of disciplines like 4km, 6km and 12 km; but now the trend has changed.  The main reason behind the increase in road race competitions is because there are limited competitions to enter to. So, many athletes turn to road races with the number of managers also increasing.  I think it is not bad if they are capable of helping our athletes. The big problem we are facing currently is the lack of competition. So, these are the major reasons.

Weeks ago, IAAF has announced the 5000m race to be cancelled out from the Diamond League competitions. How did you see the decision?

To be honest, it is a very shocking decision. As we all know, particularly in long distance races, it has been dominated by East African countries, mainly by Ethiopia and Kenya.  The decision is going to be very difficult for long distance runners. For instance, we had legendary long distance runner like Haile Gebresillasie and Kenenisa Bekele. Those athletes went through proper stages to reach or run in the road race competition after racing in 5000 and 10000 m. There is a clear difference between athletes who run on tracks and those who do not. Now, many athletes are under pressure to directly run in marathon races. This will be harmful for young athletes. So, the decision should be reconsidered and the number of annual competitions increased. Without enough competition, we cannot go any further.  

What can we possibly say about current Ethiopian Athletics?

Well, when we see the general movement of Ethiopian athletics, it is good. Because, based on their various disciplines, we have a lot of athletes across the country. However, you cannot name any athletes separately like the previous era. Previously, we had great athletes capable of winning any race.

For the past half a century, Ethiopian athletes were dominant in the long distance running. Can we say that middle and short distance is impossible for Ethiopians?

If you work hard, nothing is impossible. The main challenge is, if you have many athletes, at the same time, you need to have many competitions as well.  Because, in short and middle distance races; there is not enough place for athletes to participate in. But, if you take marathon races, they will allow 10 to 15 athletes at once. Currently, we are registering a good result in 800 and 1500m distances. So, it is possible.

You have been working with China Athletics Federation and eight of their athletes are now working with you. Tell us about the Chinese athletes?

It has been three years since I started working with China Athletics Federation. Eight of their athletes are now working with us for the last 81 days. They are improving their performance day by day. For instance, one of their trainees has registered a historical record time clocking 2:10.31 in China marathon.