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Exclusive / Interview – Mourtada Diop (Athletics / Senegal): « I hope to qualify for the 2016 Olympics »

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When did you get into athletics?
I have been in athletics since at the age of 14. It is worth noting that I have always found myself in athletics because my mother was an athlete. I fell in love with this sport because of her (ndlr: Nogaye Seck, Cap Verde with Senegal in 1984/1985 in the 4x 100m). I used to run for my school during the inter-school championships in the 1000m.
At 16, I really got involved in athletics. I started with the 400m. In my first year, I was vice- champion of Senegal in 2008, the next year, I repeated the feat. Later, I was selected by Senegal to participate in the 4 by 400m in the African Youths Championships in 2010 in Nigeria. I won a silver medal there with my team: Amadou Ndiaye, Mbecké Beye and Fallilou Sass.

What attracted you to the 4x 400m?

I simply wanted simply to try the 400m because the 1000m was too long for me to better finish the race. So I preferred the 400m. For the relay, I did not reach the minimum time to run individually on 400m but on the other hand I recorded the minimum time in the relay.

Can you trace your career so far?

Apart from the three competitions, I have participated in interzones between clubs. These are competitions organised in Senegal, notably in Diourbel and I have won one. I am at the DUC, the Dakar University Club.

What is your best souvenir?
My best souvenir was in Nigeria. I was very happy because I told myself that despite the fact that there were several athletes I was part of the team, I was total happiness for me. I told myself that I could even do better. I was proud of myself. After winning the medal, I told myself that I will do everything possible to be part of the international elite, and participate in the World Championships. That is my wish.

Will you participate at the London 2012 Olympics ?
I think Mamadou Kasse Hann and may be with Ndiss Kaba Badji (ndlr, two potential Senegalese hopefuls in athletics) and Amy Sène (ndlr,
hammer) would be there. I think I am too young for the moment to take part. I have not yet run in the senior category for the moment. In addition,here in Senegal, we don’t have the means for youths to reach tis level of the competition.

For which reason ?
Here, youths are not encouraged. Normally during the holidays training camps are supposed to be organised for the best athletes, put them in camp and make them discover several competitions. But in Senegal, we really see that youths really have problems. I recently read an interview granted by Usain Bolt. He was saying that very few African youths can make a career in athletics. We don’t really have the equipment, we don’t really encourage youths. These are the reasons why it is difficult to hope for a career in athletics.

What can be done to change that?

You need an attitude and convenient training means. It starts with good feeding because it seems that the feeding here is not good enough. It is also necessary to have an experienced entourage, starting with the trainers. We need to be well supported. Take about five to ten youths and bring them to France to show them what athletes to produce the results as well as learn from this. We can equally enter into partnerships with clubs all over the world like those in France and the United States. We need to look for money to help youths but it is very difficult. Even Ndiss Kaba Badji and Mamadou Kassé Hann struggle by themselves meanwhile they are amongst the international elite. As for me, I am trying alone with my own personal means and those of my parents. They are the ones to support me and I thank them for that because they are actively participating in accomplishing my dream. Because if you rely on the federation, you will go nowhere because they cannot help you. People need to help us because it is not really encouraging: you run, you sacrifice deeply but you don’t attain the performances because of lack of means.

What are your objectives?

I am doing all my best to go to Germany because my family lives there.
I live with my grandparents here in Dakar. I needed first of all to grab my baccalauréat. Now that I have attained that goal, I am putting my documents together to go to Germany and continue my athletics there. That is the only means for me to hope to be amongst the international elite in years to come. Once I arrive Germany, I will register myself in a club and in the University put together studies and sport because there, you have a high probability to succeed. I like to participate in my next competitions there. My objective will be to qualify for the 2016 Olympics. And I will do everything possible to grab a medal for Senegal.

Does Senegal really have the potential?
There are several youths with enormous talent like the three with whom I raced in Nigeria in 2010. Not forgetting Léon-David Basse. He was the best Senegalese young athlete and won a silver medal in Nigeria in the 200m and a bronze medal in the 4x 100m relay. We are all of the same generation. Because of lack of means, we find it difficult to be amongst the elite.

Signature : Kevin Sanchez

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