Hicham El Guerrouj

Hicham El Guerrouj (Arabic: هشام الكروج, born September 14, 1974, Berkane) is a Moroccan former middle distance runner. He is the world record holder for the 1500 metres (3:26.00), the mile (3:43.13) and the outdoor 2000 metres (4:44.79), and a double Olympic gold medallist. He has been nicknamed "King of the Mile". ["The King of the Mile" - Cornell University Library] [ "The King of the Mile" - [http://www.kingofthemile.com/ www.kingofthemile.com] ]

It is said that he became interested in racing as a child after being inspired by countryman Said Aouita's win in the 5000 meters during the 1984 Olympics.

His sporting career is marked by numerous recognitions such as the award to humanitarian effort from the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), which he received in 1996. He is also a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. El Guerrouj was named best athlete of the year by the IAAF in 2001 and 2002 after remaining unbeaten in more than 20 races and thus becoming the first man to win athlete of the year titles in consecutive years. Also, in 2002, he was chosen, together with the British athlete Paula Radcliffe, best athlete of the year by the prestigious athletics journal "Track and Field News". In 2003, he was also top of the world athletics list and was elected as a member of the IAAF Athletes Committee.

Having failed to win an Olympic title in 1996 and 2000, despite being the favourite on both occasions, EL Guerrouj became the first man in 80 years to win both the 1500m and 5000m at the 2004 Summer Olympics. On September 7, 2004, El Guerrouj was decorated with the "Cordon de Commandeur" by King Mohammed VI of Morocco. In the same year, he was awarded the Prince of Asturias Awards. [ [http://www.fundacionprincipedeasturias.org/ing/13/antiguos/boletin_15/noticias/noticia86.html "Thousands of asturian children of all ages to join Hicham El Guerrouj in a race for peace"] - fundacionprincipedeasturias.org]

He is a member of the International Olympic Committee Athletes' Commission.


Hicham El Guerrouj's first international triumph arrived in 1992, when he was 3rd (13:46.79) in the 5000 metres of the 1992 Junior World Championships in Seoul, while Haile Gebrselassie of Ethiopia won the race and the 10000m.

In 1994, he was a member of the Moroccan team in the 1994 IAAF World Road Relay Championships. He ran his 5000m leg in time of 13:43, and his Moroccan team won the race with the world record (1:57:56). [ IAAF World Road Relay Championships [http://www.arrs.net/HP_WChRy.htm result] ] [ IAAF World Road Relay Championships [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y-9akeHgTuU Young Hicham el guerrouj in 1994] --- YouTube video]

He rose to international prominence in the mid-1990s with near-record times in the 1500 metres and mile. At the age of only 20 he finished second over 1500 metres (3:35.28) at the 1995 World Championships in Gothenburg behind Noureddine Morceli(3:33.73). In 1996 July 8, after setting a new personal best over 1500 metres in 3:29.59 in Stockholm, he was considered one of the favourites for Olympic gold.

1996 Atlanta Olympics

However, on August 3 at the 1996 Summer Olympics, El Guerrouj fell down on the track with 400m to go, finished 12th (3:40.75), and left the stadium with tear-filled eyes. In that race, El Guerrouj, at 22, had been tipped to challenge the Algerian Noureddine Morceli, the world record holder at that time and three-time (1991, 1993 and 1995) World champion. He moved out of the pack, glided past Spain’s Fermin Cacho, the 1500m winner of 1992 Barcelona Olympics, and onto leading Morceli’s shoulder. But as they approached the bell, El Guerrouj’s left foot knocked against Morceli’s right foot. The Algerian stumbled but survived, while El Guerrouj was sent tumbling. He picked himself up to finish, but came home last, shattered and devastated. [ 1996 Atlanta Olympics sporting-heroes.net: [http://www.sporting-heroes.net/athletics-heroes/displayhero.asp?HeroID=1529 El Guerrouj fell to the ground] ] [ 1996 Atlanta Olympics YouTube video: [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0_i9q-Djy-M Atlanta Olympics 1996 - Men's 1500m] final]

Just one month later, in 1996 September 7, El Guerrouj became the first runner to defeat Morceli over 1500m for four years when the two met at the Grand Prix final in Milan. Thereby about four years reign of Noureddine Morceli over 1500m ended.

In the following years, El Guerrouj became the only middle distance runner to win four consecutive world titles in 1997 [YouTube video [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=31jDFM8Asxs 1500m final] - 1997 World Championships] , 1999 [YouTube video [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fh5vPyFwX14 1500m final] - 1999 World Championships] , 2001, and 2003 [ YouTube video [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CYtWJNb2hYM 1500m final] - 2003 World Championships] .

At a meeting in Rome in 1998, El Guerrouj broke Morceli's 1500 m world record (3:27.37) with a new world record of 3:26.00. [YouTube video: [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_eJZA-V9U9Y Hicham El Guerrouj sets a new world record at 1500m] in 1998] [ [http://www.iaaf.org/statistics/toplists/textfiles/season=0/gender=M/inout=O/ageGroup=N/legal=A/discipline=1500/textfile.txt World Outdoor Lists 1500 Metres All Time MEN] ] [ [http://www.athletix.org/Statistics/wr1500men.htm World Record progression of men 1500m] ]

In 1999 July 7, in Rome, El Guerrouj broke the world record in the mile set by Noureddine Morceli, recording a remarkable 3:43.13 and just edging out Noah Ngeny of Kenya who recorded 3:43.40. [YouTube video: [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XvCsj7eJKKA&eurl= Hicham El Guerrouj sets a world record in the mile in 1999]

Later in that season he set a new world record over 2000m in Berlin at 4:44.79, shattering the previous mark (set by Morceli) by more than three seconds. (This astonishing mark is the equivalent of a 3:49 for the mile plus another lap at 55 second pace.) He also ran the second fastest 3000 m ever when clocking 7:23.09 in Brussels in 1999. El Guerrouj came close to breaking his own 1500 m record in Brussels in 2001 with a time of 3:26.12. His personal best over 5000m stands at 12:50.24 (Ostrava 2003).

2000 Sydney Olympics

At the Sydney Olympics, El Guerrouj, the world record holder and two-time world champion at 1500m (in 1997 and 1999) finished second in the 1500 metres, being outkicked by Noah Ngeny. Ngeny was a Kenyan runner who ran as El Guerrouj's pacemaker when El Guerrouj made 1500m world record in Rome in 1998, and who set the current 1000m world record in 1999. [ 2000 Sydney Olympics YouTube video: [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fUH0Hp_sv0w Men's 1500m] ] [ 2000 Sydney Olympics Guardian: [http://www.guardian.co.uk/sydney/story/0,,375521,00.html El Guerrouj, a picture of despair] ] [ 2000 Sydney Olympics sporting-heroes.net: [http://www.sporting-heroes.net/athletics-heroes/displayhero.asp?HeroID=463 Noah Ngeny Olympic gold at 1500 metres] ] [ 2000 Sydney Olympics sporting-heroes.net: [http://www.sporting-heroes.net/athletics-heroes/displayhero.asp?HeroID=1532 El Guerrouj 'Only' the silver at the 2000 Sydney Olympics] ] Also, in 1999, Ngeny was narrowly beaten by El Guerrouj in a mile race held in Rome, in which El Guerrouj broke the world record. Ngeny's time remains to this date the second fastest mile ever run.

Despite his Sydney defeat, Hicham El Guerrouj continued to defend his 1500m title in the 2001 and 2003 World Championships.

Hicham El Guerrouj also won 3 consecutive IAAF Golden League prizes in 2001, 2002 and 2003. He was the only middle distance athlete to achieve the win streak necessary to be entitled for a share of the jackpot of 50 kilograms (1,608 troy ounces) of gold (2000–2002) or USD 1 million (1998–1999, 2003–present). Indeed, he is the only athlete to have won it three times in a row.

2004 Athens Olympics

He won the gold medal in both the 1500 metres and 5000 metres at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece.

In the 1500m final (2004 August 24), he won the gold medal (3:34.18) running a stunning 1:46 last 800 meters in the 1500 meters to outkick Bernard Lagat (3:34.30), the bronze medalist of 2000 Sydney Olympics. [ 2004 Athens Olympics YouTube video: [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ge6_o4SkQGg Men's 1500m final] ] Bernard Lagat was a Keynan runner who had run the fastest (3:27.40) 1500m in 2004 defeating El Guerrouj(3.27.64) narrowly. Lagat won this victory over El Guerrouj at the Weltklasse Zürich 2004 meet in 2004 August 6, about 20 days before Olympics final, and put an end to El Guerrouj's seven times winning streak in Zurich between 1996 and 2003. (Meanwhile El Guerrouj set a meeting record of 3:26.45 in 1998) [ 2004 Weltklasse Zurich [http://www.time-to-run.com/track/goldenleague/2004/zurich.htm Hicham El Guerrouj was narrowly beaten by Bernard Lagat] ]

Four days later, in 2004 August 28, the 1500m winner El Guerrouj and the 10000m winner Kenenisa Bekele met in the 5,000m final. El Guerrouj waited behind Bekele until the home straightaway where he sprinted away for a 13:14.39 win thwarting the challenges of Bekele (2nd, 13:14.59) and Eliud Kipchoge (3rd, 13:15.10), and prevented Bekele from scoring wins over both 5000m and 10000m, last achieved by Ethiopian Miruts Yifter in 1980 Moscow Olympics. [ 2004 Athens Olympics YouTube video: [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9a78SssRsms Men's 5000m final] ]

He became then the first man in 80 years to win both 1500m and 5000m races in the same Olympics, after the "Flying Finn" Paavo Nurmi in 1924.

Despite the 1500m Olympic gold, his narrow win over Bernard Lagat in Olympics, his defeat by Lagat in Zurich, his somewhat old age (30), especially the very fact that he had nothing left to prove, nothing to motivate him to go further, showed that his reign over 1500m that lasted 8 years was heading towards its end. It is noteworthy that other Moroccan runners, like Adil Kaouch, Youssef Baba had helped him to consolidate his reigning by running as his pacemakers.

After the Olympics, he never again competed internationally, watching the 2005 World Championships from the stands in Helsinki as his 1500 meter World Champion title passed to Rashid Ramzi of Bahrain. [ YouTube video [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vrybLjlBfDE 1500m final] - 2005 World Championships]

On May 22, 2006, El Guerrouj officially announced his retirement. [ [http://www.cbc.ca/story/sports/national/2006/05/22/elguerrouj-retires.html "El Guerrouj retires from track"] - cbc.ca] [ [http://www.iaaf.org/news/Kind=2/newsId=34753.html "King of Middle Distance, Hicham El Guerrouj retires"] - IAAF]

Winning the Olympics double

For the decade prior to 2004, Hicham El Guerrouj had been seeking an Olympic gold medal. He collided with Algeria's Noureddine Morceli, who went to win the gold medal, at the last lap in Atlanta's 1500 m final before finishing 12th. Between Atlanta 1996 and Sydney 2000, he lost only one race before he was outsprinted by Noah Ngeny of Kenya.

El Guerrouj's last chance for an Olympic gold came in Athens 2004. He ended eight years of agony as he won the elusive Olympic men's 1,500 and 5,000 metres gold medals. The 1500 race was especially remarkable in that El Guerrouj was caught and passed in the final straightaway, something that runners almost never recover from, but he was able to summon up an extra reserve and re-pass for the victory.

After winning the 1,500 metres medal, he said:
*"Its amazing to think that in Sydney I was crying tears of sadness and here I am crying tears of joy. I'm like a five year-old with a toy."

*"I felt Lagat coming again and again. At one point I thought this was Sydney all over again. He kept coming back at me like an avalanche but when Lagat closed on me for the last time I just found that extra energy."

After winning the 5,000 metres medal, making history as Paavo Nurmi of Finland had done in 1924, he said:
*"Paavo Nurmi is a great legend. He is one of the athletes who marked history. He left his name at his point in time. Now, I’m able to put my name with his. He is from another time, a time when my grandfather was watching him. To stand alongside him now, how can I express it? There are no words."

*"Maybe I will defend my title at the World championships next year. This year my objective was to win both races at the Olympics in Athens, which is the birthplace of the sport and my ‘birthplace’ as an athlete. Next year I will move onto the next stage and try to break the 5000 m world record. Who knows? Maybe I will be there in 2008 after all, racing against Bekele again at the marathon."

Personal bests

* El Guerrouj also ran an unofficial 1:42.70 for the 800 m in a time trial
* In the 2004 Olympics 1500, El Guerrouj's closing 800 meters were 1:46.34


1500 m

ee also

* World record progression for the mile run
* List of African athletes
* Fédération Royale Marocaine d’Athlétisme
* Said Aouita

External links

* [http://www.kingofthemile.com The King Of The Mile (fan website on Hicham El Guerrouj)]
* [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XvCsj7eJKKA&eurl= Video of Hicham El Guerrouj breaking the mile world record]
* [http://www2.iaaf.org/News/articles/20020711hicham-diary.html El Guerrouj diary at IAAF]

References and notes

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