Ten years after his arrival in Switzerland, Eritrean athlete Tadesse Abraham is expected to obtain Swiss nationality before the 2014 European Athletics Championships in August.
Swiss officials are pressing ahead with plans to get formalities done for the IAAF’s approval of Abraham’s intention to compete for the national team in Zurich this summer.
The 31-year-old would be the first Eritrean athlete to become naturalized Swiss citizen and represent the country at the international stage. Abraham came to Switzerland in 2004 as an asylum seeker after he had taken part for Eritrea in the World Cross Country Championships in Belgium.
The runner is expected to get citizenship in April and may also have private reasons for his plans to become a Swiss citizen – Abraham is married to a Swiss woman of Eritrean origin, who grew up in Geneva.
He said in an interview that he was a cyclist in Eritrea, but that he started running marathon competitions in 2002 after a minor accident in 1997.
“I did not have much equipment at the time and I remember that I had to run my first race in the old shoes of a good friend. That friend is still with me and I owe him a lot – he actually helped me to become a professional runner. The shoes by the way were three sizes too small and I ended the race with bloody toes – but I did win! That was the start.” Abraham said.
The athlete is sponsored by Addidas, Ochsner Sport and Sponsors and won for the second time the Zurich Marathon in April in 2:07:45 the fastest marathon finish on Swiss soil.
According to Abraham, his aim to compete for a medal at the European Championships is one of his major goals for 2014 and also one of his biggest dreams.
He is expected to travel to Ethiopia for a six-week training camp to prepare for the 2014 season and is also lined up to run the Lisbon half marathon in March.
Abraham told sports journalist that he is inspired by his sporting hero Paul Tergat,
“For me, he was a very successful and disciplined athlete. I met him once in 2005 at the Grand Prix in Bern, after I won the race.
He told me that he appreciated the strategy I had used and gave me morale and motivation for the future.”