The treacherous course of last December’s SPAR European Cross Country Championships in Samokov was the perfect setting for Polat Kemboi Arikan to demonstrate his talent as he ran his way to gold with a thrilling finish ahead of his fellow Turkish teammate Ali Kaya.
This was an upgrade from his silver medal during the 2013 edition of the championships in Belgrade when he had to concede to Spain Alemayehu Bezabeh who was third this time in Samokov.
“It was my day. It was muddy and hilly but I had the strength, which was very positive for me. It was tough, everybody was in good shape. Kaya was strong, but I was determined at the end.
“I prepared for this event for two months with the colleagues in my (training) camp. It was hard training and was very similar (to the race),” Arikan told the IAAF.
He found his way on to the senior stage with a convincing 10,000m triumph, and a 5000m bronze, at the 2012 European Athletics Championships in Helsinki.
Arikan also led the way for a great part of the 10,000m final last year in Zurich, as he tried to steal the show from Great Britain’s Mo Farah before eventually having to settle for fourth.
However, still only 24, it does seem that his best years are still ahead with a possible move up to the marathon distance next Autumn.
“My future is the marathon,” he added. “I want to start with a 2:08 time. If it is possible for me."
In the meantime Arikan will test his skills against some of the best African runners at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships on 28 March.