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by Bob Ramsak
(c) 2007 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
April 25, 2007

As he begins to piece together his competitive plan on the way to August’s World Championships in Osaka, Craig Mottram believes that it will be an improved, if not new, model that will aim to move him up a notch --or perhaps even two-- from his bronze medal finish in the 5000m two years ago.

“I haven’t run quicker,” said the 26-year-old Australian, whose 12:55.76 personal best dates back to 2004, “but I’ve gotten stronger, I’ve gotten smarter, and I’ve got more ammunition. Things I didn’t have at the Olympics in Athens but had in Helsinki. I got better.”

A year after finishing eighth in the 5000m at the 2004 Olympics, Mottram took the bronze at the World Championships in Helsinki in a tactical race, finishing less than 4/10s of a second behind winner Benjamin Limo.

“I got better, I got stronger, but not because of the medal. But just because I’ve had two more years of doing what I love to do: running.”

When Mottram nabbed a surprise victory in the 3000m at the 2002 World Cup, few took notice. It was late in the season, the field fairly modest. But for the then-22-year-old, it was the beginning of an emergence that would eventually make him one of the most versatile all-around distance runners in the world today. He clearly illustrated that versatility and growing confidence when he successfully defended that World Cup title in Athens last September, beating, among others, multi-world record holder and world champion Kenenisa Bekele. Yet that victory and along with it the distinction as being the last man to have beaten the Ethiopian on the track, is something Mottram doesn’t spend too much time overanalyzing.

“I don’t think about it much, people think about it more than I do,” he said. “I just ran well and he didn’t. That happens in running sometimes.”

“That was one race that went my way,” he continued. “It was a great race, it was a good run, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that next time I’m going to beat him.” With a laugh, he added, “More than likely he’ll probably beat me. But I’ll try to beat him like I always do.”

Over the winter, Mottram won three of his four races, including an indoor national 3000m record of 7:39.24 at the Reebok Boston Indoor Games.  But decided against competing at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships last month, a decision he said he doesn’t regret.

“I heard it was tough,” he said while in Mombasa, where he was part of the Brisbane bid committee for the 2013 World Championships. “We made the right decision in not racing here.”

While the arduous conditions certainly played a key role in Bekele’s failure to finish the race, Mottram thinks that other variables played a part as well in his rival’s demise.

“I was surprised when I first heard that he dropped out, but to be fair to him, he’s the best distance runner in the world, and he has been for a number of years. I think he came here not necessarily for the right reasons. He was sort of talked into running. I don’t really know him, but as I saw it he wasn’t 100 percent ready mentally to come and race.  He’ll be back in the summer, bigger and better than ever, I hope.”

But so too, said Mottram, will he.

Before opening his summer track season, which will include an appearance at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene on June 10, where he’ll again face Bekele in a two-mile, he plans to contest a pair of road races.  This weekend he’ll compete at an 8.5 kilometer race in Luzern, and on May 19, will return to New York City’s Central Park to try for his third straight win in the Healthy Kidney 10-K.  In New York, he’ll face American Dathan Ritzenhein.

He also plans to compete in the 5000m at the Golden Spike meeting in Ostrava, Czech Republic on June 27, where he’ll face another tough test, squaring off against recently-minted world cross country champion, Zersenay Tadesse. That race in the eastern Czech city will be one of only a few before the first round of the 5000 in Osaka on August 30.

“If (Ostrava) goes well, there’s no need to do more,” Mottram said. “I know it’s 12-and-a-half laps, I know how to run it. Maybe I’ll do just one or two before Osaka.”

With his increased strength, speed, and experience, he said, “There’s no problem keeping up, there’s no problem keeping in contact. It’s just finding out the best way to try and win.”

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