“My goal is to be world champion in London. I’m working for this goal and I feel like I’m ready to get this world record again."
Family ties may be strong for Paralympic champion Abdellatif Baka, but the 22-year-old insists that while he and his twin brother Fouad intend to take July’s World Para Athletics Championships by storm, lowering his own world record is a key target.
Abdellatif made global headlines at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games when he, followed by his leading rivals – including his brother, crossed the line in the final of the men’s 1,500m T13.
The visually impaired Algerian clocked 3:48.29 – taking 0.55 seconds off the previous world record – an impressive performance in itself.
But what made the race even more remarkable was the fact that the top four finishers all finished faster than the time it took for American Matthew Centrowitz to win the Olympic 1,500m title a few weeks earlier.
Baka led the way, with Ethiopia’s Tamiru Demisse in second place, Kenya’s Henry Kirwa in third and Abdellatif’s brother Fouad – who clocked 3:49.84 - in fourth place.
“I have very good memories from Rio, when I reached the final I was a bit nervous because I knew the situation was a little bit hard for me,” admitted Abdellatif, who won silver at the Doha 2015 World Championships.
“The whole of Algeria was waiting for this medal and I could feel the responsibility on my shoulders. So I was nervous but at the same time very excited.”
Abdellatif returned home to Algeria with a hero’s welcome, but the media attention and accolades that followed have only served to make him even more determined.
“It was really amazing because there were many, many people waiting for me at the airport. The Minister of Sport was also there waiting for me, which I appreciated a lot. All the media were present, and you can imagine how amazing that situation was then.
“This inspired me to work even harder, I hardly took any rest, just a couple of weeks of transition before I got back to working very hard.
“I know that now the situation is not very easy for me as there are also people who want to break the world record and to get the gold medal in London. I’m very aware of this situation, which is why I am working so hard. I want to be ready for this.”
Abdellatif believes he is getting even faster – and with his sights set on regaining the 800m and 1,500m world titles he last won in 2013, he knows that he will have to be at his very best to beat a strong field of competitors.
“My goal is to be world champion in London. I’m working for this goal and I feel like I’m ready to get this world record again.
“I’m very aware about the responsibility I have during this competition as I know the capabilities of my rivals, that’s why I want to stay humble – I respect them.”
The Baka brothers recently spent time at a training camp in Kenya, running together each day.
“The work has been done together and we encouraged each other during all the training camp that we did in Kenya,” said Abdellatif.
“For us we have the main goal to get to London and to achieve our target, which is to be the best. My brother will be competing with me in the same races – 800m and 1,500m.
“He was with me in Kenya so he did a good job and according to what he said to me, he would like to make a surprise in London at the World Championships.”
Fouad explained: “After Rio when I finished in fourth place, all my life changed at that moment. I could feel that I’m not very far from the best competitors.
“That’s when I decided to put all my heart in to working hard and training. I swear that in the next big competition I won’t be finishing fourth, I will be a medallist.”
But while Abdellatif is clearly delighted to have his brother compete alongside him, he remains determinedly focused on his own ambitions.
“For sure I will encourage him all the time because it is a question of family. He is my brother and I would like him to enjoy great success.
“But this situation will not change anything – okay he is my brother but on the other hand he is still my rival and there is no question that I can let him beat me.”
The Baka brothers are both set to compete at the London 2017 World Para Athletics Championships between 14-23 July. To purchase tickets, please click here.