During the weeks that he is not concentrated in Sierra Nevada, “my second town”, 23-year-old Mohamed Katir sometimes trains on the track in Cartagena with his teammate Mariano García, with whom he shares a coach, Gabi Lorente, but most of the times he trains in the open field of Mula, Murcia, his town. Only. “I love being alone,” he says. “And the open field is super pretty. In the center there is like a lake and the track around is 800 meters long, and there is also a forest… It is very quiet ”.
It only accelerates in Sierra Nevada on snowy days and a closed track, such as in January, when it had to be alive to reach the rollers before the Ingebrigtsen brothers, the current gods of the European middle ground, who also trained there. And he respects the Norwegians so much, especially the little one, the phenomenon Jakob (who a few days ago left Andrés Díaz’s old European record of 1,500m indoor track at 3m 31.80s), that although he feels in the athlete’s soul of 1,500m, and has, tied with Ignacio Fontes, the third European mark of the year (3m 36.90s), he will contest the 3,000 test in the Europeans, where he is the best in Europe in 2021 (7m 35.29s), and sixth in the world. There he only fears Adel Mechaal, the other Spaniard with fire in his feet in the distance.
Fear is fatal to Katir in the final of the Spanish championship, where he takes the lead in the absence of 1,400 meters and makes a hare of Mechaal, more veteran, who plays a little with his desire, surpasses him easily in the last of a very slow race (8m 20.17s) and sentence: “Katir has just started, she still has to keep learning”. And Katir, who already knows that in sports sometimes you win and sometimes you learn, accepts the advice. “I suck at slow races,” he says. “And I should have got behind Mechaal, instead of shooting, but I’m learning, yes, there are many races ahead.”
At night, says the athlete, his 23 years old, slim as a reed, flexible as a poplar stick, light footing, as if he did not want to make noise, he prepares firefighter exams and reads poetry, reads Machado, poetry from landscapes, land, not love, and he also writes poems, which he does not teach because he is shy and ashamed.
On the track he is still lonely, but not shy, almost exhibitionist, instead, and thus runs his semifinal on Friday with a gift attack at 700m that the other competitors observe from the distance.
Like Mechaal, Katir was born in Morocco and came to Spain as a child with her immigrant parents. “We come from Larache. My father is Moroccan and my mother is Egyptian, ”he says. “But don’t ask me anything about Morocco because I don’t remember anything, I was four or five when I came, and it was all a bit of a mess.” He still lives with his parents in Mula, the capital of canned food, a town where the sporting references are the Sánchez brothers, Luis León, a cyclist, and Pedro León, a soccer player. “And I started as a footballer, in the Huesca fry,” Katir recalls. “But one day I won a race at school, the coaches saw me and I launched into athletics. And I’m better at it than football ”.
And there is a test in athletics that is better than the 3,000m, and it is the 1,500m, the favorite of the aristocrats of the track. “I go to the European in 3,000 also because I have been very good in the distance, but in Tokyo, at the Games, I will be in 1,500m,” he says. “If on an indoor track I have run in 3m 36s, outdoors I am worth 3m 31s or 3m 32s”.
“It can be our cover for the 1,500m of Tokyo”, prophesies Jorge González Amo, a historical milquinientista and coordinator of the medium distance in the Spanish federation, and Katir hears him and speaks of his admiration for Fermín Cacho, the Spanish god of 1,500 m. “Breaking his national record of 1,500m (3m 28.95s) is almost an impossible task, but it would be incredible to beat it,” says the athlete from Mula. “The 1,500m is the most complicated distance and that offers the most tactical possibilities. And I’m doing very well. I am not as explosive as Mariano García, but I have a very good change with 800m to go, which I can maintain for a long time, and then I am able to make another change in the last 100 meters. I’m more like Reyes Estévez, with progressive attacks ”.
He proclaims it and leaves happily, bouncing like a child in new shoes, which is what it really is. “Premiere sneakers. My brand, Asics, has already given me the latest model, ”he explains. “Before, when I hadn’t made these marks, I still ran with the old ones.”