Paul Tergat with Mario Casado, winner of the U23 Mobile Film competition (Getty Images) © Copyright
General News San Sebastian, Spain

Cross country legend Tergat honoured at FICA

Five-time world cross country champion and former 10,000m and marathon world record holder Paul Tergat was the guest of honour at the second night of the International Athletics Film Festival (FICA) in the Spanish city of San Sebastian on Tuesday (5).

Tergat, a winner of several cross country races in the Basque region during the second half of the 1990s when he reigned supreme in the discipline, was a popular figure in this part of Spain during his competitive career and the reception he received when he came on stage at the Teatro Principal showed that his stature had not dimmed with the local athletics fans.

Now 50, and a member of the International Olympic Committee, the Kenyan distance running icon received a Honorary Achilles Prize from the Festival organisers, following in the footsteps of Bob Beamon 12 months ago in relation to his international appeal, for his contribution to the sport.

“It’s a big honour to be recognised in this way and this honour is very special to me,” commented Tergat.

“I hope this type of event (FICA) will continue for many years. To see the film of my cross country victories, as well as my defeats on the track at the Olympics, brings it all back to me even though it was 20 years ago, and more. But it’s important to keep these memories for our children and grandchildren.

“I have competed all over the world, but I remember well the reception I always got in Spain. The people here were always very warm and welcoming,” he added, clearly delighted but humbled by accolade and the accompanying applause.

Hats off to Tergat

In addition to his trophy, Tergat was also presented with a ceremonial inscribed Basque beret – a txapela – a traditional gift in the area.

His presentation, with Tergat receiving his trophy from Spanish athletics federation president and IAAF Council Member Raul Chapado, followed a two-minute visual review of his greatest races on what was deemed ‘IAAF Day’ at the Festival.

Tergat was not the only person to pick up an Achilles trophy on Tuesday night.

Spain’s Mario Casado won the IAAF competition for U23 filmmakers with his innovative and creative short Why I Run, which depicted a male runner’s relationship with a female protagonist who is undergoing hospital treatment.

The rules of this competition stipulated that the film should be no longer than two minutes and shot on a mobile phone or tablet.

In conjunction with the fact that 2019 has been designated as the Year of Cross Country – a happy coincidence considering the presence in San Sebastian of Tergat, who has some good claims to being the greatest ever exponent of the discipline, as well as Spain’s two-time women’s world cross country champion Carmen Valero and Portugal’s former European cross country winner Paulo Guerra – also shown was Hunters, a 30-minute film with footage recorded at the World Cross Country Championships Aarhus 2019 earlier this year.

The contest continues

“I aimed to show the emotions and the effort of the runners from a different perspective. The title comes from the fact that the earliest cross country runners were hunters for food, extending the idea through to the runners in Aarhus who were hunting for medals, personal glory or just a sense of personal worth,” commented the film’s director Michael Lasserre, who is also the IAAF Chief Editor and Video Manager.

“We only used one camera in Aarhus, but it took a lot of planning to make sure that we knew what we were filming and what we were going to do during the races.

“It is only 30 minutes long now but, as you can imagine, we started with a lot of footage from four races so I put everything together and then just started cutting, cutting and cutting until I had a rough cut of a good length and then we could work on it.”

Indeed, the enthusiastically received version of Hunters shown at FICA was not even the finished article as Lasserre revealed that he still intended to fine-tune a few aspects of the film before releasing it into the public domain.

Earlier in the evening, the audience saw screenings of two of the main Festival in-competition submissions: Cent'anni di corsa (ITA, 2018), the story of Guiseppe Ottaviani who was still competing at the age of 100 having started in athletics at 70, and Bannister: Everest on the Track (USA, 2016), a documentary about the four-minute mile being broken and the events that led up to it.

The winner of the main competition will be announced on Saturday.

With seven films having been shown over the first two days, another seven will be shown from Wednesday to Friday this week; the final 14 being shown to the public having been chosen from an original entry of 51 films from 20 countries.

For more details: www.ficafestival.com

Phil Minshull for the IAAF