Saif Saaeed Shaheen completes his World Cup double (© Getty Images)
Saif Saaeed Shaheen of Qatar who won both the 5000m and the 3000m Steeplechase at the 10th IAAF World Cup in Athletics, was not only the first runner ever to win both of these events at the World Cup, but he was also the first to win a medal at both distances.
But the World Cup is essentially a team event, and while Moses Kiptanui and Henry Rono of Kenya held the World records at both the 3000m Steeplechase and 5000m, the task of winning both events at an individual global championship - Worlds or Olympics - remains elusive.
No runner has ever won a medal at the both events at the World Championships in Athletics, though during the heyday of Finnish distance running in the 1920s, two great runners – Ville Ritola and Paavo Nurmi, won medals in both events at the Olympic Games. In the 1924 Olympic Games, Ritola won the 3000m Steeplechase and finished second in the 5000m, while Nurmi at the 1928 Olympic Games, finished second in both disciplines.
Turning our eyes to non-global championships, Kenyans Ben Jipcho, in 1974 Games, and Henry Rono, in 1978, have completed doubles at the Commonwealth Games. Jipcho also won the both events at the 1973 African Games.
At the 1962 Asian Games, Mubarak Shah won both the 3000m Steeplechase and 5000m, while in the 1995 and 2002 Asian Championships Saad Al-Asmari and Khamis Seif Abdullah respectively were victorious at both distances.
Coming close at a similar distance doubles at global level were Francesco Panetta who won the 3000m Steeplechase and finished second at the 10,000m in the 1987 World Championships in Rome, and Kip Keino won the 3000m Steeplechase and finished second at the 1500m at the 1972 Olympic Games. Four years earlier in the 1968 Games, Keino had won the 1500m and finished second at the 5000m.
Shaheen had skipped the IAAF World Athletics Final the previous weekend in Stuttgart, Germany (9 / 10 September 2006) to prepare for his double attempt at the IAAF World Cup in Athletics, Athens, Greece.
He had hoped to race against Kenenisa Bekele in the 5000m. “The way he (Kenenisa) runs this season, he is not in the best form like he used to be in the last few years. So I wanted to take this opportunity to make him try,” said Shaheen.
However, Bekele opted for the 3000m instead of the 5000m, and so the showdown never materialized. “I was not motivated today because he (Kenenisa) was not running. I was bit disappointed, but I will meet him next time,” said Shaheen in Athens.
In the 11th IAAF World Championships in Athletics, Osaka, Japan, 2007, the men’s 10,000m final takes place on the third day of the Championships, while the men’s 3000m Steeplechase final takes place on the fourth day. Bekele and Shaheen have respectively won the 10,000m and 3000m Steeplechase at the last two World Championships in Athletics (Paris / Helsinki). Hopefully after attempting to retain their 2003 titles for a second time, they will meet at the 5000m on the ninth and final day of the Championships.
Ken Nakamura for the IAAF