On paper, Jos Hermens is an agent for athletes. In reality, however, the Dutchman, who is the elite athletes’ coordinator at the Mumbai Marathon, is more like a family member to many long-distance runners -- prominent among them is the legendary Haile Gebrselassie.
Not many know that it was Hermens, who spotted the talent in Gebrselassie back in 1991 when the Ethiopian was just an unknown 18-year-old. Hermens, who owns an athlete-management company, was observing the Ethiopian national cross-country championships at Jan Meda when Gebrselassie, who finished fifth, caught his eye.
Haile Gebreselassie. Pic/Getty Images.
“Haile is like my son. I met him when he was 18. He had finished fifth in the national championships. Normally, as a manager, you speak to the first three finishers and try and take them on board as they are the best. But I liked his (Gebrselassie’s) style of running and I particularly liked his personality immediately. He came up to me and, in whatever little English he could speak, said, ‘Me Europe, me Europe’.”
A few years later, Hermens signed Gebrselassie and he became like a father figure to the double Olympic gold medallist (1996 Atlanta Games and 2000 Sydney Olympics). In fact, some years ago when Gebrselassie’s brother was in a Holland hospital, it was Hermens, who took care of him.
Now as Gebrselassie begins his campaign to run for a parliamentary seat in the 2015 elections, Hermens finds it impossible to talk about his most famous ward without a hint of pride in his voice. “Now next year he will go into politics and I believe he can be the president of Ethiopia one day. It will mean a lot for Ethiopia and all of Africa. I don’t think he’s even completed primary school but he’s learnt at the university of life,” Hermens signed off.