Introducing Ouassim Oumaiz
Bienvenidos Ouassim! We find out more about the NN Running Team’s first Spanish recruit, rising 21-year-old talent Ouassim Oumaiz.
In the blood
Raised in the Spanish resort town of Nerja on the Costa Del Sol, Ouassim was born into a running family. His father, Abderrahim, was a Moroccan distance runner who trained as part of the national squad with a half marathon PB of 1:02. One of four siblings, Ouassim followed in his father’s footsteps taking up athletics at the age of 'five or six'.
“From a very young age I used to run the town races and I won them all,” he recalls. “The people of the town supported me and this inspired me.”
Starting his athletics journey at school, he was initially coached by his father who has acted as a huge inspiration and rock of support throughout his career.
“I have no doubt that I owe my father a big debt of gratitude for where I am today,” Ouassim says. “He was the one who guided me on my journey to becoming a professional athlete. Even today when he is no longer my coach, he continues to guide me, gives me advice and supports me.”
Ringing the changes
In 2016, Ouassim made his international debut, placing what he terms a 'bittersweet' seventh in the 3000m at the European Athletics U18 Championships in Tblisi.
To aid his future, his father wisely believed Ouassim would be better served under another coach’s guidance. The young runner heeded the advice and moved to Madrid, where he came under the influence of his current coach Antonio Serrano.
“The first year adapting to life in Madrid and being away from my family was tough,” he explains. “For my first year I was in a major school near the sports facilities but the following year I managed to enter the high performance centre in Madrid and this made life more comfortable.”
In 2017, he placed 90th in the U20 race at the World Cross Country Championships in Kampala, Uganda and climaxed his competitive year by placing 23rd in the U20 race at the European Cross Country Championships leading into a breakout 2018 season.
During a memorable year Ouassim lowered his PB’s for 800m (1:53.43), 1500m (3:44.52) and 3000m (8:12.15). He also clinched the U20 Spanish indoor 1500m and cross country titles and won 1500m silver at the Spanish U20 outdoor champs.
“It was a very good year for me, let’s say it was the trigger for a new era! I had already been with my coach for a year, so I was adapting to his training and I was gaining more international experience.”
The young Spanish athlete then arrived at the 2018 European Cross Country Championships in Tilburg in confident mood, targeting a top five spot.
He then lived up to his pre-race ambition to produce the best run of his career so far. In an absorbing showdown with Jakob Ingebrigtsen he claimed silver – finishing only nine seconds adrift of the Norwegian prodigy.
“I was very motivated,” he recalls. “I really wanted to race him because he is such a strong athlete. I look forward to more strong races against him in the future.”
Progress continued in 2019 as Ouassim took out the Spanish cross country title and he then impressed on the brutally tough course at Aarhus to place 20th at the World Cross Country Championships.
An injury denied him the chance to compete on the track that year and he re-set his focus to 2020 and the Tokyo Olympics.
After lowering his 3000m indoor PB to 7:44.39 in Madrid in early 2020, the pandemic brought an end to competitive opportunities for several months but in July - on the recommendation of his manager, Jurrie van der Velden - he lined up in the 5km Seven Hills Test Run road race in Nijmegen.
That day he blitzed to victory in a national record of 13:19 to announce his arrival as a serious road performer.
“I was very happy to make my debut on the road as I always wanted to test myself on asphalt,” he explains. “I arrived super motivated and it was a super good display.”
Later in 2020, Ouassim also impressed on the track, posting a national U23 5000m record of 13:13.14 in Monaco – in the same race where Joshua Cheptegei lowered the world 5000m record of his NN Running team-mate Kenenisa Bekele.
“It was a euphoric moment to make my Diamond League debut at such a great event Monaco,” he adds. “I was very motivated and super pleased with the performance.”
Officially unveiled as a member of the NN Running Team in December, Ouassim was delighted to be the first Spanish athlete to take his place in the world’s number one road running team.
“I decided to join the team to take a step forward in my running career, “he explains. “You can only learn and improve from athletes such as Eliud Kipchoge, Joshua Cheptegei, Geoffrey Kamworor and Kenenisa Bekele."
“I know by joining this great team, I will continue to grow as an athlete. It has many team members with great experience on many platforms, such as marketing, athlete representation and nutrition.”
East African adventure
As a fully-fledged member of the NN Running Team and in an effort to improve his running education, Ouassim has recently decided to base himself at the Kapchorwa training camp of Joshua Cheptegei.
“I decided to train in Uganda to train specifically for the 5000m summer season,” he adds. “Of course, training in Kapchorwa also brings with it the huge benefit of training alongside none other than the 5000m world record-holder Joshua Cheptegei."
Ouassim also acknowledges a key part of his success has been the input of his coach Antonio Serrano.
“He is a serious, hard-working coach who always likes to do things well,” he explains. “He is like a friend to me and also a father-figure and because of that we work well together.”
For the season ahead he hopes to compete at the Tokyo Olympic Games with the aim to dip below the 13-minute barrier for the 5000m.
Will to win
In the longer term, Ouassim wants to achieve many records and medals in the sport – and given his fierce desire to succeed few would bet against him achieving his goals.
“I am very strict with myself and I always want to do well,” he explains. “I do not like to lose. I have a lot of pride in my performances and if things don’t go well I get angry with myself.”