Can Craig Mottram Win the Osaka 5,000 meters?

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Craig Mottram of Australia, with his bronze medal in the 5,000 meters in Helsinki, Finland in 2005, became the first non-African to win a medal at 5,000 meters in a World Championship since 1983. Can "Buster" Mottram win the big one, the Osaka World Champs 5,000 meters? This writer this so, and explains why.

Craig Mottram is Australian. He runs with the pride of his country every day, day in and day out. He trains hard, races hard, and will give you answers that are provactive at the least and suprisingly thoughtful at best.

In 2006, I watched Mottram win the Reebok Boston Indoor 2 mile, then take a tough second in the 5,000 meters in the Commonwealth, and in the 1,500 meters there, fall with seven hundred meters to go. Mottram ended the year, as he started it, with a victory. He took Kenenisa Bekele over 3,000 meters at the World Cup in Athens. I remember admiring Mottrams' brashness-a four minute mile followed by an relatively easy lap of 65, then a last kilometer drive to the finish at sub four minute speed. He broke Bekele with 100 meters to go and pumped his arms in triumph.

In 2007, Mottram opened the season with an Australian record, at 3k this time, in the Reebok Boston Games, running 7:39.8 and winning going away. Several miles in the 3:54 range later, Mottram pops a 53 last lap at Ostrava the other night, to run a fine 13:04 to take Taruki Bekele, Kenenisa's younger brother, over 5,000 meters.

Note that this was Mottrams sixth race in five weeks. He started late May with a 28.10 road race, then a tough 3:54.58 mile at Reebok Grand Prix, and then his best race of the year: the Prefontaine two mile.

Mottram stayed behind the rabbits and Taruki Bekele through 60 for 400 meters, 1:59 for 800 meters and 4:01.9 for 1,600 meters. With two laps to go, Mottram came alive and began his long drive home. With two laps to go, Mottram was in full flight and with a lap to go, Bekele was cooked meat.

Craig Mottram, at six foot-four is something to see in full stride. He pumps his arms and his stride lengthens and it is apparent that this man, in shape, is difficult to beat. Mottram trains at such an intensity that the typical pace changes in a world class 5,000 meter race do not faze him. He not only keeps his wits, but also his kick about him. In the two mile, Mottram finished within himself, running 8:03.58, the fastest time in the world this year, and within striking distance of the world record at two miles!

Afterwards, Craig made a few comments that had the US media pros laughing and terrified with what he would say next. Mottram is not brash, he is honest. He lives his life in the present and focuses on present goals.

At Ostrava, in a fast pace, Mottram delivered a 53 last lap on a thirteen minute pace. In Osaka, Japan, the heats and the final will be humid and hot, and it will come down to who wants it more.

An aside, Bill Toomey, the 1968 Olympic decathlon gold medalist told me that the one who wins the medal is the one who covets it the most. Craig Mottram is a big guy with the hopes of a big country on his back. That pressure beat up Ron Clarke, Derek Clayton, Kerry O'Brien, to name a few.

Is Mottram tough enough to deal with the media pressure as well as the real pressure of the heats and a 5,000 meter final? I believe so. Mottram's training, monitered by Nick Bideau, has the intense sessions and quality needed to be the best in the world.

" I did not know that I could not beat Africans, " Craig muttered after a race one time. And he believes it. Racing is racing, and Mottrams seems to relish the fire of competition, and with a 53 second last lap, off a fast pace, Mottram will be in the thick of things in Osaka, Japan, and is my pick to win the 2007 World Championships 5,000 meters. You heard it here first.

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