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Olympics: El Guerrouj and Holmes double up

2004-08-29

On the last day of athletic events inside the Olympic Stadion in Athens spectators witnessed three great running events. On Sunday the men’s marathon will be the final event of the games.

Before he had come to Athens Hicham El Guerrouj had been an athlete who was extremely unlucky at the Olympics. But on the eve of the closing day the Moroccan managed an historic double which only Paavo Nurmi had achieved before. Back in 1924 the Finish legend had become Olympic Champion at 1.500 and 5.000 metres. Now Hicham El Guerrouj repeated Nurmi’s double in Athens. On the home straight he overtook Kenenisa Bekele in a finely judged finish. The Ethiopian had won the 10.000 metres in Athens eight days earlier and this year broke both world records at 5,000 and 10,000 metres.

After a very slow start the real showdown between some of the greatest runners of our time began only in the last lap. Six runners were in the leading group when the last lap started. 200 metres before the finish Kenenisa Bekele overtook Eliud Kipchoge (Kenya). But behind him there was Hicham El Guerrouj. “I was optimistic before the start of the race”, El Guerrouj said and added: “I dedicate this historical double win to the Moroccan people.”

A second athlete, who had been unlucky many times in recent years, also saw her greatest days during her career in Athens: After winning the 800 metres Kelly Holmes also took the gold in the 1,500 m. The Britain is the third runner in Olympic history who managed to win the 800 and the 1,500 metres.

Tatyana Kazankina (USSR) had done so in Montreal in 1976 and Swetlana Masterkowa (Russia) in Atlanta eight years ago. Kelly Holmes ran a tactical perfect race, storming to the gold medal from eighth position during the last lap. “I can not express in words how I feel. The 800 metres were a total shock and today has just blown me away.” Before the final British middle distance legend Sebastian Coe had predicted: “Kelly can win both events if she stays focussed.”

For fours year Jury Borsakovsky had prepared himself for this Olympic moment: Now the Russian 800 m runner was ready at the right moment. The 23 year-old won the Olympic gold in a time of 1:44,45 minutes. He had been the only athlete in the final who did not come from Africa. Although Wilson Kipketer runs for Denmark he of course comes from Kenya. It was Kipketer who was leading the rest when he came on the home straight. He had just passed Wilfred Bungei (Kenya). But once again there was no gold for Wilson Kipketer – and it seems very likely now that the world record holder will never win an Olympic gold. When he was the number one in 1996 he had not been allowed to compete due to his change of nationalities. Four years ago the sensational finish of Nils Schumann (Germany) denied him an Olympic gold in Sydney. Now Wilson Kipketer had to be content with a bronze while Mbulaeni Mulaudzi was second. The South African clocked 1:44,61 minutes while Kipketer ran 1:44,65.


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