Athlete representative Malcolm Anderson believes Hana Abo’s victory in the women’s division of the Global Energy Inverness Half Marathon could open up more international opportunities for the young Ethiopian runner.
Abo was given a rousing reception by spectators at the Queen’s Park track as she sprinted home in 1hr 15min 4secs to pocket the £1,000 top prize in last Sunday’s race.
The 20 year-old had never previously been outside her home country and she arrived in Inverness less than 24 hours before the race after jetting in from Addis Ababa.
Anderson, who is a Director of Runners Across Borders, an organisation which aims to help East African athletes fulfill their potential by offering them athletics coaching and education in Ethiopia and then ultimately overseas racing opportunities, was delighted for Abo.
He said: “She only got her visa confirmed a few days before the race so we had a hectic time trying to sort out the travel arrangements.
“I wasn’t sure how she would cope as there was little time to recover from the journey and adapt to the weather conditions.
“But she did exceptionally well. Her aim was to win the race but now she’ll be hoping to get into some other events with a view to running even faster.
“At Running Across Borders we have been working with Hana for three years and its very satisfying to see her progress and finally get an opportunity to show what she can do.”
“I am really pleased that the Inverness race organiser, Malcolm Sutherland, is working with us to help give runners like Hana a chance to compete.
“A win like this will raise her profile and I’m hopeful that we’ll be now able to get her back over to Britain for some other races in the early summer.”
Abo’s compatriot, Yared Hagos, was an equally impressive winner of the Inverness men’s race in a time of 65mins and he’s keen to return to the Highland capital to compete in October’s Loch Ness Marathon.
Anderson said: “Yared has a different story than Hana in that he is now based in Newcastle and is racing on a regular basis in this country.
“Most Ethiopian runners who compete overseas are pretty overwhelmed and culture shocked by the whole experience. They run, go home and train for the next one.
“Yared is different. Not only is he a great runner but he’s dedicated himself to learning about foreign cultures as well as how to speak English ever since joining us.
“This has allowed him to take up long-term residence in the UK. It is really rare to find athletes with the aptitude to do this. But Yared is becoming established and is making a name for himself.
Hagos made his first overseas appearance when he competed in the Loch Ness marathon in 2010, finishing a disappointing 11th.
Anderson said:” He found it hard as he was inexperienced. Now he has settled down and is showing his true potential.”
Hagos said: “I’d really like to come back and compete in the marathon. I want to do that as I didn’t run well the last time I was here.
“I’ll continue with my training and maybe I’ll run in the Brighton Marathon in April although I haven’t decided yet.
“Then I’ll be doing other races but I’d like to be at Loch Ness later in the year.”