It may be a bit premature to say that Muktar Edris is the next great Ethiopian distance runner, but the 20-year-old is already faster over 5000m than Kenenisa Bekele and Haile Gebrselassie were at that age.
Edris emerged on the international stage in July 2012, becoming the latest in a long line of Ethiopian winners of the world junior 5000m title, joining the likes of Fita Bayissa (1990), Gebrselassie (1992), Assefa Mezgebu (1996), Million Wolde (1998), Tariku Bekele (2006) and Abraham Cherkos (2008), all of whom went on to win medals at senior global championships.
“Haile has always been my idol,” said Edris, the fifth born in a family of eight children. “He inspired me not only for his physical ability but also for his mental strength. Like many other young Ethiopian runners, I try to follow his example.
“I started running at the age of 12 at the primary school in my native village. I used to run one or sometimes two laps of the backyard of my school. There I was spotted by Hilma Berta, who still coaches me. After one year I moved to Addis Ababa to start running with the national team.”
Edris, who hails from Silte in southern Ethiopia, first represented his country at the 2011 IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Punta Umbria where he finished seventh in the junior race and contributed to the team silver medal.
One year later, he won the junior title at the African Cross Country Championships, beating the likes of Japheth Korir, who went on to win the senior title at the following year’s World Cross Country Championships, and Hagos Gebrhiwet, who won the junior title at the 2013 World Cross.
“I realised that I had the potential to compete at the international level when I competed at the National Trials for the World Cross Country Championships in 2011. For the first time, I competed against some of the best runners in the world.
“In Barcelona, I hoped to reach the podium as my preparation went really well, but you can’t take anything for granted,” said Edris. “Training well is one thing, but showing that ability against your rivals is another matter.”
After his Barcelona triumph, Edris joined the group of Italian athletics manager Gianni Demadonna. “Imane Merga (2011 world cross-country champion) was the first to suggest I should join Demadonna’s group,” said Edris, who still trains alone in Addis Ababa under the guidance of his first coach.
Read more at: IAAF.org