Merga now the man to look out for – Bydgoszcz 2013 senior men’s review

Imane MergaTwo years ago, when Imane Merga won at the last IAAF World Cross country Championships, it was a slight surprise to many people as the Ethiopian had a reputation for competing well on the track but rarely winning.

He was only an outside bet for a medal in Punta Umbria and probably almost nobody’s favourite for gold. Now the spotlight is on him.

In addition to a 10,000m bronze medal at the 2011 IAAF World Championships, his winter performances have made him among the leading candidates to win the coveted senior men’s title on Sunday (24).

“Last summer was a disappointment. I had some slight injuries in July and lost my chance to go to the Olympics, but since November I have been steadily improving,” the 24-year-old runner modestly told the IAAF last week.

He won at the high-quality IAAF Cross Country Permit meeting in Atapuerca, near Burgos, in Spain last November and then took the honours at the famous Boclassic road race in Bolzano, Italy, on New Year’s Eve.

Although he dropped out of the Ethiopian trials last month, Merga just put this down to over-training and high mileage.

“I have been having some excellent training sessions, I’ve been going very well, so I will go to Poland feeling very confident of what I can do there,” he added.

By his own admission, back in 2011 cross country was hardly his favourite surface. However, a lot has changed in the intervening 24 months.

What pundits will be aware of though is that Merga’s best cross country results have come on dry courses and often in relatively hot weather. His two previous World Cross Country Championships outings – he was also seventh as a junior at the 2007 event in Mombasa – were in exactly those sort of conditions. Read more

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