Mo Ahmed named St. Catharines athlete of year for third time
Winning the St. Catharines Athlete of the Year Award is becoming as familiar as an old pair of cleats for long distance runner Mo Ahmed.
The 29-year-old former St. Catharines resident added the 2019 award to go with earlier athlete of the year awards from 2009 and 2016. This year’s honour was bestowed upon the Niagara Olympic Club member after he won a bronze medal in the 5,000 metres at the 2019 world track and field championships. It was the first distance medal ever won by a Canadian at the world championships.
“It’s my third time and I am definitely honoured,” said the former all-American at the University of Wisconsin.
The St. Catharines Collegiate alumnus hasn’t lived in St. Catharines for more than a decade but he still considers the city his home.
“For sure,” he said. “I always say that what makes home is family and that is the essence of what I deem important. Family is of the utmost importance.”
St. Catharines is permanently ingrained in his mind.
“It is where my earliest memories are and where I can go back and recollect about,” he said. “I discovered running and all of it started there. St. Catharines will always be home.”
The city is home to many of the people and coaches who were and still are influential in Ahmed’s life, including Alex Acs, Sharon Stewart, Perry Wakulich and Stuart Galloway to name a few.
“It was 11 years ago when I left St. Catharines for the States and I look back and I wonder how did that happen?” he said. “The time just flies and in many ways I feel exactly the same and that nothing has changed except the years, the experiences and the different places I have been to.
“As a person, I still feel exactly the same and whenever I go back home I still feel like I am that 17-year-old who left St. Catharines to pursue other opportunities and other challenges.”
Ahmed remains extremely close to many of the coaches and mentors he left behind.
“I am nothing without the people who have helped me, encouraged me and continue to encourage me,” he said. “Those people forged who I am: the confidence; how to deal with disappointment; and, how to form goals. All of that is critical and the most important time to implement that is at a very young age.”
All the things his early coaches taught him are utilized by Ahmed to this day.
“I still use the same drills I did at the Niagara Olympic Club and I still use the same mantras and quotes that I used from a very young age.”
Former coaches and teachers have now become Ahmed’s friends.
“A guy like Alex Acs who is 60-something years old and I am in my late twenties. There is a huge gap but we communicate and he is one of my best buddies,” he said. “And likewise for Sharon Stewart, Stuart Galloway and Perry Wakulich.”
When he returns to Niagara, those are the first people he calls upon.
“They are always texting me if I accomplish something and they are always calling me, emailing me or texting me with encouragement when there is disappointment.”
Ahmed would love to attend Monday’s ceremony before the city council meeting, but he is busy with preparations for the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics.
“I have been at a training camp for the last six weeks and I am in the stream of heavier training,” the Bowerman Track Club member said. “There are a couple of races coming up that I am preparing for right now and I am in lockdown mode.”
The Olympics are several months away but they are quickly approaching.
“You have to make every single moment count from year until late July and early August and that is really what I am focusing on.”
He describes himself as being in the ‘grind’ of training.
“I told my coach I am there to work for the next three months and once spring hits, we will choose some races that will prepare us for Tokyo.”
Ahmed already has achieved the time standards required to compete in the 5,000 and 10,000 metres in Tokyo but still needs to place in the top three at the Canadian Olympic trials to confirm his status as a three-time Olympian.
The fourth-place finisher in the 5,000 metres at the 2016 Rio Olympics isn’t getting overly excited about Tokyo.
“For myself, with experience I have learned to stay even-keeled and stay in the moment,” he said. “It is the work and you have to put in the work. What excites me is the work and trying to show up every day and make every single moment count as opposed to mentally having my mind wander and think about something that is far away.
“When your vision gets blurred and you are focused on something so far away, your habits and how you do things get sloppy.”
BPSN’s coverage of the track and field season is made possible with the support of the Niagara Olympic Club (https://nocrunners.com).