9th October 2018

MAHAMED HAS 'UNFINISHED BUSINESS' AS CROSS CHALLENGE SERIES RETURNS

Defending Cross Challenge series champion Mahamed Mahamed (coach: Peter Haynes; club: Southampton) is hoping he can pick up where he left off at the first meeting of the 2018/19 Cross Challenge season this weekend.

The series returns this coming Saturday (13 October), with Cardiff’s Llandaff Fields once again hosting the opening meeting of the five-part series.

Cross Challenge has become an important part of the 21-year-old’s calendar and he hopes to better his second place finish in the Welsh capital and get the new series off to a perfect start as he bids to defend his title.

“Last year in Cardiff I was second and there’s only one way to improve and that’s to win it this year,” he said. “There’s a bit of pressure on me going in as the defending series champion but I’m not letting that bother me.

“For me, the Cross Challenge series is very important. The whole series has become a huge part of my training diary and each time I take part, the aim always remains the same, to win,” he assessed.

Last season took Mahamed somewhat by surprise as he ended his first year running alongside the seniors at the top of the standings, though the Southampton AC athlete acknowledges that he still has work to do, not just to defend his title, but to become one of the best in Europe.

He said: “It meant a lot to me to win. I had a very good season last year both with the Cross Challenge series and on the track. I didn’t think about what would happen at the start of the season because you never know what’s going to happen.

“But luckily for me it went to the plan that I had, both myself and my coach planned for it and it worked a treat. Every decision we made turned out to be the right one and things just fell my way.

“Becoming the champion is something that I’ve wanted to achieve since I took up running, but I look at what others across Europe like Jakob Ingebrigtsen have done at just 18-years-old on the track and in cross country and I realise I need to work hard to get to the top level.”

Last season saw Mahamed claim victories in Milton Keynes and Loughborough, alongside a strong sixth place finish in Liverpool at the European trials.

The latter two meets also act as the trials for the world and European Championships respectively and, given the competition on offer, Mahamed knows these will be two meets he needs to be on his A-game once more.

“Last year was my first year running alongside the seniors and it felt really good being up against all the top athletes across the series.

“Liverpool and Loughborough are the courses you need to attack because of the European and world trials. Everyone is going for it and you have to bring your best performance.

“Loughborough was the most special for me last year. Despite it not being a world championship year, winning there just made everything so much more special. It was something that I felt really proud of and when I was confirmed as champion it all became surreal,” he added.

Mahamed has already tasted success on the international stage winning individual bronze medals in the Under-20s race in Hyeres, France, and Chia, Italy.

He followed those U20 successes up with an U23 team bronze last year in Samorin, Slovakia, where he finished 12th having led for long spells. However, he feels he has unfinished business on the European circuit and is hungry to win an individual medal once again this year.

He reflected: “Samorin was a really good experience and I got loads of things from there and it was an honour to be part of the British team.

“The course was really good but the weather played a part. I was at the front for most of the race until the last lap when it really started to hit me. I tired and everyone began to pass me in the last few hundred metres.

“I felt I could have finished in the top ten but hopefully this year I’ll be able to prove exactly what I can do when the Europeans come around in December, I feel like I have unfinished business. Hopefully this year will go as well, if not better than last year.

“I only have two targets. Make the European team and make the world team. Hopefully I’ll be selected for the teams if I perform to my best and I can once again show what I can do on the international stage.”

“It meant so much to be selected for my first British team in 2015. It was an achievement I didn’t think I’d ever get in my lifetime and it was just unbelievable.

“I asked my coach in 2013 if I would ever get a British vest and he said ‘you never know’ and the day when I got the call to say I was going to be in the team for the Cross Country Champs was a dream come true.

“I’ve worked hard from then on to make sure that I can get more British vests. It just means so much each time and it makes me want to continue to achieve more,” he added.

#Represent