Moha Attaoui and the new model of professional athletics | Sports

These are On, the 750 euro Swiss sneakers which, sharing a brand with Loewe, stroll with panache on the sidewalks and stop in front of the golden windows of Serrano and Ortega y Gasset, and their income finances the professional dreams of athletes like Moha. Attaoui, a thoroughbred athlete from Torrelavega, dynamite in the heart, who, barely a year ago, had to borrow money and dip into his savings to pay for a few weeks of training in Ifrane, the mountains of the Atlas in which Morocco resembles Switzerland, fir trees and cedars.

Four months after making his debut at the World Championships in Budapest, Attaoui, 22 years old, 800 m fast and less than 1 min 45 s, experienced the real Switzerland, where athletes prepare as if it were Morocco , and talks like one would talk about the jet set is more like an athlete who lives to train and compete and wants to succeed in the Olympics. “I was in St. Moritz at the end of October and I liked it, everything was fine, then I returned to Spain. And already in mid-November we went to South Africa, to a city located at an altitude of 2,100 meters. We stayed for a month until the end of December and I have now returned home. And on January 2, I return to South Africa again to spend 25 days preparing for the indoor track season. And in March, after the indoor track, we returned to South Africa for a final internship of a month and a half before settling in St Moritz in May to prepare for the summer,” explains Attaoui, for whom his signature to On Athletic Club (OAC), a new model of athletics, is just a long journey. “It’s a luxury, because we only dedicate ourselves to that now, to running and in addition I have a salary and I forget about other problems and just focus on athletics. They take me on flights, accommodation, the coach comes with us, everything. It’s another world.”

Álvaro Rodríguez, former 1,500m athlete from Peñafiel and manager of Attaoui, knows two worlds, two ways of working on athletics. One, the one where he lived, in which the athlete lives while waiting for the scholarship, with some residing in La Blume or in the CAR of Sant Cugat, and the help for the preparation of the federation or the income that he wins by running cross country or miles through cities, he has a record for an amateur club and his brand pays him in equipment, shoes and clothing, as if inviting him to go to a flea market to sell it and get a few euros back . This is the model of the majority of Spanish athletes, and they have to pay for their physio, buy their hypobaric chamber, their trips… “And the coaches show voluntarism”, reflects Juan del Campo, coach of the Galician marathon runner Tariku Novales . … and from Extremadura Laura Ahora, who will run with the OAC but will continue her training in Blume, who receives, like all the technicians, part of the scholarship from its athletes. “I can train because I live on my salary as a professor at the Autonomous University of Madrid, because few coaches can live only on athletics. Others enter popular programs, much more trained, and pay for the preparation plans without further delay.

The other path is that propagated by the OAC and other professional groups that have emerged in the United States and are changing the landscape. “They are the future of our athletics”, comment privately the leaders of Spanish athletics, who also see how more and more young people take advantage of their sporting talent to seek a scholarship in an American university and cling to the NCAA system from a young age, with difficult conditions, competitions every weekend. Their process escapes the close control of the federation technicians who, in addition to minimum grades, only require participation in the Spanish championships if they want to be eligible for the major championships.

Professional groups operate like a cycling team. A coach, physiotherapists, nutritionists, physiologists, organized trips, concentrations… “There are 13 of us at OAC Europe, which is based in Saint-Moritz and where the German Thomas Dreissigacker trains us. Marta García is also with me,” says Attaoui, who will surely focus on the 1,500m indoor, with the intention of reaching the minimums for the World Cup in Glasgow, the first week of March. “I have a two-year contract and I know, of course, that they will demand performances and results from me, but I am not worried. I have always faced the pressure of having a lot against me and difficulties, and I have always performed well. And now that I have everything in your favor… Well, I like it, I like having that pressure.

There are also OAC groups in Australia, in Melbourne, with the former athlete Craig Mottram, and in the United States, in Boulder, Colorado, where the pioneer Mario García Romo, middle-distance runner from Villar de Gallimazo (Salamanca) who followed a single path, opened the way. He grew up as an athlete in the North American university system (he is the only Spaniard to have been university champion in the mile) and remained professional there. “I don’t think the private model will be better than the public model. There are athletes who stay at Blume and train in groups and do very well, Olympic medalists, world champions. There are examples for everything, but I think that a training group in which all the athletes are sponsored by the same brand, with the same coach and with the same abilities, above all, is very good. And of course there are times when you have to step away from training camp and there are athletes who can because they have the money to afford it, there are others who cannot because they have to work and have other responsibilities outside the camp. track,” explains García Romo. “A group like this allows you to work with people who are at the same level as you. For example, Attaoui recently went to South Africa and this allows him to train with people for three, four weeks without having to worry about anything else. That also has a lot of influence, but I think the public system can also be another very feasible system. Everyone must find what suits them best and try to take advantage of these opportunities. “It’s all about wanting to do things well and trying to get the most out of everything.”

Even if they could, neither García Romo nor Attaoui wear On-Loewe shoes, which are only made for walking, not running. “These are two simply fashion brands,” explains Salamanca. “It seems good to me that a Spanish brand collaborates with On and launches a fashionable product.” And no one is unaware of the parallelism and the desire to use the transitive property: if Mario García Romo and Moha Attaoui are On and On is Loewe, the best of the best luxury, so both athletes are pure luxury, at least.

You can follow EL PAÍS Deportes in Facebook And Xor sign up here to receive our weekly newsletter.

Subscribe to continue reading

Read without limits