EUGENE, Ore. – Ethiopia’s Mohammed Aman, a three-time IAAF World Champion in the 800 meters, has joined Oregon Track Club Elite, it was announced Tuesday.
Aman, who has been working out with several members of the Eugene-based post-collegiate training group for the past several weeks, is no stranger to TrackTown USA.
He competed at the annual Prefontaine Classic in each of the past four years. Aman made his debut at historic Hayward Field in the mile in 2011; he won the 800 meters in 2013 and placed second in that race in both ’12 and ’14.
“He could have gone anywhere but he came here for the coaching and the environment,” OTC Elite head coach Mark Rowland said. “So far, he’s responded well. He loves the program and he loves being around the athletes.”
Aman was ranked second in the world in the 800 meters by Track & Field News magazine last year. He is the No. 9 all-time performer in that race with a personal best of 1:42.37 set in Brussels in 2013.
“I want to run fast,” Aman said. “OTC Elite is a good team with a good coach and I want to improve my performance. It’s so amazing for me to be able to run here. This is TrackTown. If you run in Eugene, the audience will support you and they know about track races, so I am very happy.”
The East African nation of Ethiopia has produced multiple Olympic gold medalists, world record-holders and world champions in the longer distance races – 5,000 meters, 10,000 meters and marathon – but Aman is the first from his country to win a global title in the two-lap event.
His ascension to world-class status began in 2011 when he placed eighth in the 800 at the IAAF World Championships in South Korea. The following year, Aman collected his first gold medal on the world stage by winning the 800 at the 2012 IAAF World Indoor Championships in Istanbul, Turkey.
In 2013, he earned his first world outdoor title in the 800 by edging former OTC Elite standout Nick Symmonds, 1:43.31 to 1:43.55, at the IAAF World Championships in Moscow. Last year, Aman successfully defended his 800 crown at the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Sopot, Poland.
“The first time I ran World Championships was a big achievement,” Aman said. “Then I became the first from Ethiopia to win the 800. Now, I’m a role model for young kids. They see you can do it in other races, and not just long distances.”
For his part, Rowland is thrilled to have another world-class athlete on the OTC Elite roster.
“I think it’s important for our developing athletes to identify with how a world-class athlete operates on a daily basis,” Rowland said. “Not just at workouts, but recovery strategies as well. It’s important to have the right environment in place to facilitate those athletes, and make sure they fit into the structure of the program.”
Aman, of course, also was a finalist in the 800 at the 2012 London Olympics, considered by many to be the greatest track and field race in history.
Not only did Kenya’s David Rudisha set a world record of 1:40.91 in winning the gold medal in wire-to-wire fashion, but all eight finalists finished under 1:44, including Duane Solomon and Symmonds, who placed fourth (1:42.82) and fifth (1:42.95), respectively, as the second- and third-fastest performers in U.S. history.
Aman settled for sixth in that race, but still managed to break his own national record.
“The Olympics, for me, was a big race,” he said. “It was my first time, and also the first time for my country to participate in the 800 at the Olympics. I learned many things from that race.”
The next step for Aman is determining when and where he will open up outdoors on the track this season. The IAAF World Relays, Penn Relays and Pre Classic are all potential targets.
The good news is that as the reigning IAAF world champion in the 800, he is already guaranteed a berth in the 2015 World Championships, Aug. 22-30, in Beijing.
“My main goal is to be the world champion, to defend my title from Moscow,” Aman said. “I also want to run fast. The 800 field is very tight and it’s very hard to keep your position.