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Olympic Running Events (II): 1,500 m men with Hicham El Guerrouj

2004-06-14

The situation at 1,500 m

Normally there is only one big favourite at 1,500 metres: Hicham El Guerrouj. For years the Moroccan has dominated middle distances from 1,500 metres. Additionally he has shown his enormous potential at 5,000 metres. At the world championships in Paris 2003 he had won the 1,500 metre title for the fourth time in a row. But the 29 year-old has never been Olympic Champion.

No one could yet get anywhere near to El Guerrouj’s 1,500 m world record of 3:26,00 minutes from 1998. Also last year he was again the fastest 1,500 m runner in the world with 3:28,40. Frenchman Mehdi Baala was number two (3:28,98) and also the silver medal winner at the world championships. Bernhard Lagat (Kenya) did not seem to be bale to come near to his best times again recently. Still it is not El Guerrouj who is the fastest this year at this early stage of the season: Alan Webb (USA) ran 3:32,73. In third position is Eliud Kipchoge with 3:33,20 – it is the Kenyan who beat El Guerrouj in the 5,000 metres world championships’ final.

But Hicham El Guerrouj had not a good start into the season. He won a second class 1,500 m race in 3:36,49. But if he should be in top form in Athens and manages to keep the pace high in the final he will be very difficult to beat.

Hicham El Guerrouj – no luck yet at the Olympics

Since 1996 Hicham El Guerrouj has lost only three of his 84 races at 1,500 metres or the mile. But his losses could hardly have been more tragic. Among them were the two most important races of his career. At the 1996 Olympics he fell in the 1,500 metres final, which was won by Noureddine Morceli (Algeria). Four years later in Sydney, again at the Olympic 1,500 metres final, he was beaten by Noah Ngeny. The Kenyan passed El Guerrouj on the home straight. It was the final sprint at which El Guerrouj had seemed to be unbeatable before. It was like a knockout for the Moroccan. Hicham El Guerrouj nearly ended his career. It was mainly his sister who motivated him to carry on.

Because of El Guerrouj’s long unbeaten run it was the British middle distance legend Steve Ovett who said that his rivals should attack instead of being frightened.

„This time I am ready. I will not loose again, I will win the Olympic final”, Hicham El Guerrouj said recently. He has won many gold medals so far and three times was a shared winner of the IAAF Golden League. But Olympic gold is still missing. Hicham El Guerrouj has as usual trained in the Moroccan Atlas mountains for this season. And he gets even royal support by the king of Morocco.


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