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News Archive

Olympics: El Guerrouj’s dream comes true, Kenyans take all medals in the steeple

The number one middle distance runner of the past century has finally won an

Olympic gold medal. After a fascinating battle against Bernard Lagat on the

home straight Hicham El Guerrouj won the Olympic 1,500 m final. When there were

just 50 metres to go it seemed as if Kenya’s Bernard Lagat would snatch

the gold. But on the very last few metres El Guerrouj was able to turn things

round again. He won with a time of 3:34,18 and had an advantage of just twelve

hundredth of a second. Behind Lagat the bronze medal was won by Rui Silva

(Portugal/3:34,68).

Bernard Lagat probably had started his final attack slightly to early. After

he had passed El Guerrouj he could not stand the pace to the finish line. This

slight misjudgement probably cost him the gold while Hicham El Guerrouj’s

dream came true.

And an eight year long nightmare came to an end for the Moroccan. In the

Olympic final in 1996 he had fallen over the leg of his rival Noureddine

Morceli (Algeria), who became teh Olympic Champion. El Guerrouj finished 12th.

Four years later Noah Ngeny (Kenya) shocked El Guerrouj when he beat him just

before the finish line. Disappointment was so big that El Guerrouj considered

ending his career.

When Lagat attacked El Guerrouj on the home straight it looked almost the

same as in Sydney. When there were two laps to go Hicham El Guerrouj had taken

the lead. And he still was in this position when he entered the home straight.

But then Lagat attacked. “When he passed me I thought about Sydney. But

then I got the feeling that this time I could respond. And thank god I was able

to do so”, Hicham El Guerrouj said. “Four years ago I was in tears

because of the disappointment, this time I had tears of joy in my

eyes.”

Bernard Lagat was not disappointed about loosing a gold medal. “I gave

everything and I am happy about my silver medal. I knew it would be a very

tough race. When there were 50 metres to go I though I might win it. But after

I had finally finished second I also thought about Hicham. Because he has

really deserved this gold medal.”

Nonetheless Kenya still got its first gold medal of the games. In the

steeplechase there was no-one stopping the Kenyan’s. And for a second

time in Olympic history they took all three medals. It was in 1992 when they

first achieved this. Now Ezekiel Kemboi, who had been second in last

year’s World Championships, won the gold medal in a time of 8:05,81

minutes. 19 year-old Brimin Kipruto was second (8:06,11) while Paul Kipsiele

Koech (8:06,64) took the bronze.

Fourth place finisher Musa Obaid Amer also originally comes from Kenya. But

he changed his nationality and now runs for Qatar. It was the aim of the

,real’ Kenyan’s to keep him away from the medals. And they achieved

their goal. “It was great teamwork. And we won all the medals for our

country“, Ezekiel Kemboi said. But the fiercest rival had been omitted by

the Kenyans before the Games. World Champion Saif Saaeed Shaheen (Qatar) also

had changed his nationality a year ago. The former Kenyan had won the steeple

at the Zurich track meeting recently. But Kenya’s officials did not give

their permission for him to start in the Olympics. In this case it would have

been necessary. So Shaheen had to watch the race on TV instead of going for the

gold.

 

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