jAMA ADEN is a cosmopolitan.

A supreme example of where athletics can take an African from the famine and strife-racked Horn of Africa. Born in Somalia, for whom he ran at world level, educated in the US where he began his coaching career, employed in England and Sudan, Aden is now national coach in Qatar, where pockets are deep enough to buy world-ranked athletes and coaches – perhaps even the 2020 Olympic Games.

We are talking in the shadow of the Khalifa Stadium, venue this week for the Pan Arab Games in Doha.

Aden's current quest is for Olympic medals in London and nothing would be sweeter than coaching a medallist in an event in which he once competed, and in a country whose running tradition he unashamedly admires.

Aden, raised in the era when Britain dominated middle-distance running, talks in near-reverential tones of Bannister's sub four-minute mile, and of his legacy, the triumvirate of record-breakers: Coe, Cram and Ovett.

But that power-base has changed, and he has helped shift it. The world marks at 1500, 2000 and 3000 metres, and the mile, are all Arab-owned, having passed through the hands of Said Aouita, Noureddine Morceli, and Hicham el Guerrouj. The latter still holds three of them.

Aden, an Arab, coached Abubaker Kaki of Sudan to two world indoor 800m titles and compatriot Ismail Ahmed Ismail to Olympic two-lap silver in Beijing – Sudan's first ever Olympic medal.

Ismail is among the favourites in the Pan Arab 800m final tonight. Kaki, the only man who seems capable of challenging Kenyan world record-holder David Rudisha, is on a more intruiging mission.

He is flying today to Kenya to try serious altitude training for the first time, reveals Aden.

Kaki rarely runs 1500m, but in his first high-profile attempt at the distance as a senior, he clocked 3min 31.76sec this year, in Monaco – a time which would have won every Olympic final.

"Kaki will run both the 800 and 1500m in London," confirmed his coach in an exclusive interview. "The 800 is first, so he can do both. We will try a few 1500m races of course, but his first serious attempt, this year, surprised even me.

"I thought he would run around 3:35, and would have been very pleased with that."

So Kaki is heading to Kenya to find the missing ingredient. His best over 800m is 1:42.23, the fourth fastest of all time, while David Rudisha's world mark is 1:41.01.

"Kaki has never really tried altitude," says Aden, "so this is an experiment. He is going to Iten [breeding ground of a slew of Kenyan Olympic and world medallists]. It will be the first time Kaki has trained in the same home territory as Rudisha.

"He only ever did a little altitude, three years ago, in Yemen. One week, and he didn't like it much. This time he is determined. He came to me and said: 'I need to do altitude.'

"We are working on closing the gap on Rudisha. I hope it's not a mistake. I always say not to try something new – if it ain't broke, don't fix it. But we have all agreed we are going to take the risk."

Aden discovered Kaki when he was 14, before which he was a footballer. "He was doing cross-country, in Khartoum," he said, recalling how he had sprinted to the front before finishing 25th. But Aden noted an economical style, and a year later Kaki was one of a team which won five medals at the 2005 World Youth Championships. Significantly, his first medal was silver in the 1500m.

In 2008, Kaki set world junior records indoors at 800m and 1000m, and an outdoor 800m record, all inside just two months.

"But Rudisha," notes Aden, "came from sprinting. The first time they were at a championship together, the East African Championships, Rudisha ran 100m, 200 and 400. Kaki ran 800 and 1500.

"Kaki has more in strength while Rudisha has more pure speed. So Kaki has to work on his strength a little bit more. For 1500m he needs more aerobic development."

Hence the altitude.

"Aouita started all the Arab middle distance thing," says Aden, doing himself some injustice.

He himself ran in the heats of both the 800 and 1500 at the first ever world championships in 1983. Fifth and 11th in heats did not trouble Cram, who won 1500 gold there, but that was Britain's first and last world title at the distance which they once dominated.

Aden also competed in the Los Angeles Olympics, with a mile best of 3:56.82 before building his coaching career. He steered another Somali, Abdi Bile, to relieve Cram of the world title in 1987, and was his mentor when Abdi beat Coe in the 1989 World Cup final.

Son of a nomadic herdsman, Bile still would go walkabout with a sack of rice on his back for months in the desert, on holidays from his US collegiate scholarship, studying marketing.

His victories over Cram and then Coe really marked the beginning of the end for the British tradition.

Aden recalls Somali picture houses being packed for weeks to watch Abdi's victory. Bile himself laughs at the recollection and said the news film accompanied some dud movies and the fans only woke up for the race. "Every athlete who comes to me to be coached, aks me to coach them to do 800 and 1500 now" says Aden.

"Arab youngsters look at Aouita, Abdi, El Guerrouj – all these guys, and they have started a tradition in the Arab world. When I started here, every Qatari wanted to be a middle-distance runner. So I think this tradition is going to carry on for a while."

Aden was the 2008 IAAF middle-distance coach of the year, but this year won the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Award for Sports Excellence – judged the best Arab coach in any sport. What if Qatar or Sudan strike gold in London next year? An oil well, perhaps.

But whisper it quietly, Aden still has a hand in Sheffield, where he once worked. He helps advise Mukhtar Mohammed, who ran 1:45.90 this year and won European under-23 bronze. He is now No.3 in Britain, and on course for 2012 himself.

interview Inspired by the great Britons, a celebrated coach is taking middle-distance running to a new level in the Middle East, writes Doug Gillon