OSAKA - Australian world bronze medallist Craig Mottram says he is ready to take on the world in a bid to end Africa's stranglehold on world championship 5000m titles.
"I think I am as good as their best guy," the 27-year-old Mottram told a news conference yesterday.
If Africans, with multiple entries in the race, pace their teammates, "they are just going to pace me around as well", he said.
African runners have won every world title at the distance since 1987.
Only the 1983 triumph by Ireland's Eamonn Coghlan keeps Africa from having a perfect score in the 10 previous worlds.
Four Kenyans and three each from Ethiopia and Morocco will be among 15 Africans in today's two 5000m semifinals.
They include 2005 Helsinki winner Benjamin Limo of Kenya and the man tipped to succeed him, Ethiopian Tariku Bekele.
Neither world leader Kenenisa Bekele, Tariku's brother, nor fellow Ethiopian Sileshi Sihine are competing. They went 1-2 in the 10000 on Monday.
"Anyone can beat them," Mottram said of the Africans' mystique. "No one has ever said that you couldn't.
"They are fantastic athletes and they have been dominating the sport for a number of years."
Mottram feels that belief is a lot of the battle.
"A lot of the racing is mental," he said. "A lot of the damage is done before the gun is even gone.
"You don't necessarily have to be in the best form to win sometime.
"You just have to have all the ammunition, and I have got more than I had last year."
Mottram has run well this season, clocking 13:04,97 to be within a second of Tariku Bekele's best time.
But the Australian is a realist.
"I could run the greatest race ever and still finish fourth or fifth. That's just the level of the sport," he said. - Reuters