One of the biggest surprises of last summer’s Olympics was Paul Chelimo chasing Mo Farah in the final stages on the men’s 5,000 meters and winning an Olympic silver medal. Just a month earlier, he edged out Eric Jenkins for a spot on the Olympic team to even get to Brazil by .06 seconds.
Just two years ago, Chelimo was just making small waves as an NCAA runner-up at 5,000 meters for UNC Greensboro. Then he goes from 11th at the 2015 U.S. Championships to a world championship indoor berth and then a podium appearance in Brazil.
He is now a member of the U.S. Army and trains in Colorado Springs under Scott Simmons. Chelimo returns to North Carolina this weekend and will run the the 3000 meters at the Camel City Classic at JDL Fast Track in Winston-Salem on Saturday, February 4. The race will be streamed live on RunnerSpace.
Citius Mag’s Pat Price touched base with Chelimo before the race and kept it real:
Pat Price: Have you met anyone famous since your Silver?
Paul Chelimo: Yes, I’ve met some famous people. One of them is his excellency, Barack Obama, but I haven’t yet met my favorite soccer player, Paul Pogba. Link me up with him please.
PP: Did getting silver in Rio shock you at all?
PC: I was not shocked at all, since the type of workouts I had done before Rio were amazing. At some point, I knew I might get a medal, but I didn’t know which one.
One thing I’ve realized in life is that”what the mind can believe, it can always achieve.” [A quote attributed to Napoleon Hill.] There are some times that I have believed in myself in situations that were near impossible to succeed but I ended up coming out successful. I have a tough mentality and that’s something that can’t be taken away from me.
PP: Have you re-adjusted your goals since your performance in Rio?
PC: Yes. One of my New Year’s resolutions was not to lose any races this year. So far, so good. [Chelimo is coming off a 3,000 meter victory at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix.] I’m living up to it. I have also been praying every other day to stay healthy and consistent and once I achieve that consistency, I can be so brutal and lethal on the track.
PP: How did Daniel Ayers come up with the “Paul Chelimo Ran to Rio” song and what were your thoughts after hearing it?
PC: Daniel Ayers is an amazing guy. I’ve known him for about four years now. I was really happy when I heard the song. It made me realize that there are really nice people out there and he took his time to compose a song about me – something I don’t take for granted. I really respect him a lot for that and now he’s like my younger brother.
PP: Where did your nickname “Mustang” come from?
PC: My friends used to call me the Big Engine or Horse Power when we were growing up because I would run fast in races with little training. So to make it simple for them, they started called me Mustang.
PP: What did you learn from the Olympic final about the way that Mo Farah races and do you think he’s beatable?
PC: I prefer not to answer that until after the world championships. Maybe this year in London, I will have an answer.
PP: Do you believe the 5K is your best event or could you move up to 10K or the marathon down the road?
PC: I swore not to do any other event until I win gold in the 5K. I’m just in love with the 5K and I don’t want to be so greedy.
PP: Has your agent tried to negotiate a sponsorship deal with Advil PM after the trials debacle? [If you recall, Chelimo tweeted that he took night time sleeping aid instead on Ibuprofen on the day of the U.S. Olympic Trials semi-final.]
PC: In WCAP, we are not allowed to have any sponsors whatsoever so I don’t have one.
PP: UNC Greensboro made a shrine to you. How has your interaction with the school been since the Olympics?
PC: UNCG has been great and has been like my second home. I will always remember UNCG and I’m just about to head there now for a quick visit.
PP: How does it feel to be coming back to the Triad to race? Will you go for a run anywhere locally while in town that you used to train at while at UNCG?
PC: This is an amazing feeling and a good opportunity to come back home and race because this is where I have spent most of my years. This is also where I have lots of people supporting me. Every time I get to run at Hamilton Lakes, I’m at peace and have great memories. Also, just going back to my little room for a visit makes me appreciate the little things that propel one to greatness.