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Q & A with Dr Yilma Berta

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(CNN) -- Dr Yilma Berta has known Haile Gebrselassie since he was a junior athlete. CNN spoke to Dr Berta in Ethiopia during preparations for Gebrselassie's world record attempt at the Berlin Marathon.


Dr Yilma Berta is the Ethiopia's national marathon coach.

CNN: When did you first meet Haile?

Dr Yilma Berta: I met him when he was a junior athlete. A pilot project was organized with Ethiopian Airlines and we selected a lot of junior athletes who got together for training. Haile was already a special talent. After two years I approached him to join the Ethiopian Athletics Federation with his three friends, and he joined Ethiopian National Team. He joined us and he trained there for about three years. At that time I was a 5,000 and 10,000 meter coach and I coached him. In 1992 he went to the World Junior Athletics Championships in South Korea and won the 5,000 and 10,000 meters.

CNN: You said he had a special talent, what is it about him?

YB: We had a competition and we saw that he was a talented guy. He was a fast and determined guy, He was good mentally and wise too. So we brought him to test him in the National team and he was in the first group.

CNN: Do you think it's a strength of mind?

YB: Yeah he is very strong in mind, a determined guy who knows what to do and when to do it, He is a gifted guy.

CNN: When you went with him from South Korea and then to Sweden, what was it like seeing his first big wins?

YB: At that time his first big wins were as a junior. He won that competition and after that end he boosted up and he knows that he is going to do it and so he continued.

CNN: Was it emotional to see that?

YB: Yes, I can say it was emotional to see that. He was aggressive and he knows that he can do it whenever he goes. Since that time he had decided what kind of a guy he wanted to be.

CNN: What do you think is the biggest moment in his career?

YB: Well the biggest moment for him I think was at the Sydney Olympics. At that time he had been suffering from a knee problem and was very sick.

CNN: How does Haile feel after he wins a race? How does he react?

DY: Just normal, he is satisfied. He maybe very glad when he's won but otherwise he is as usual but maybe that's because winning is so normal for him.

CNN: He talks a lot about his country. He loves Ethiopia. Do you think that also motivates him?

YB: As any Ethiopian he likes his country and that's why he is running here and he doesn't want to stop. He wants to satisfy his people and his country by his results and at the same time he is investing here.

CNN: Why do people love him?

DY: Well because of his results. If he says: 'I will go and win this race' then he can win it. And if he says 'I will break the world record this time' he will do it. That's how determined he is.

CNN: Is there something unusual about his running style, I read that he runs on the balls of his feet, does he still do that?

DY: That is how he grew up running. Sometimes I tell him when he is running a marathon that marathon runs are about running on flat feet. But he doesn't run like that because he grew up running on the balls of his feet. He runs the way he is used to.

CNN: What is your role as the coach?

YB: Well everyone knows what the role of the coach is. They guide their athletes, follows their results and training system and everything else. The coach tells him how to win and how to train and how his performance is getting better and better. That is the role of the coach.

CNN: Is it enjoyable to work with Haile?

YB: Yeah, very, very much. But not only him, I am very satisfied by all my athletes. I have many athletes, many marathon runners and I am very satisfied with them to. With Haile, he is a special guy because he wins and listens to what you say and he is does exactly what you tell him, so you are very satisfied as a coach. If you tell him to do certain things and not to do others, he will accept this.

CNN: Haile's run in Berlin before and won in Berlin before? Does that make you more confident about breaking the world record?

YB: A little bit. In Ethiopia it was the rainy season. It is tough to train in that season because it rains everyday. When it rains, the ground is wet and you can't run in a relaxed way -- you are always afraid of injury. It was tough weather this year. But anyway, when we did our training it was not bad, and not worse then last year. So I think we hope we can do like we did last year. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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