Hicham El Guerrouj wins his first World Championships gold medal in Athens 1997 (© Getty Images)
Fresh from yet another world record, Hicham El Guerrouj plans to rule supreme from the 1500m to the 5000m.
The Moroccan looked awesome when he added the 2000m to his collection of world records in Berlin on Tuesday. Racing the last 600 metres well ahead of the rest of the field, he clocked four 4:44.79 to beat the old mark by more than three seconds. Four days earlier in Brussels, the 24-year-old had run over 3000m for the first time since his days in the junior ranks. The result was a mark of 7:23.09 which made him the second best performer ever over the distance after world record holder Daniel Komen of Kenya, who clocked 7:20.67 three years ago.
"It was a good experience," he said "I didn't know what to expect but I know now that I can get that world record. Running 7:15 should be possible but just not yet."
In the German capital, he shattered the previous best mark for the rarely run 2000m of 4:47.88 set by Algerian Noureddine Morceli in July 1995 in Paris. The 1500m World Champion, who had already taken the 1500m and Mile World Records from Morceli, removed Morceli's last mark from the record books.
"That's the sort of time I had in mind," El Guerrouj said after becoming the only athlete to currently hold the World Record for three individual events. "The conditions were perfect," he added. "I just concentrated on my race and I knew it would be a world record."
It has been a great year for El Guerrouj, who set a Mile World Record of 3:43.13 last July in Rome and went on to defend his 1500m World title in the heat of Seville last month. The season had started in pain with a bout of haemorrhoids, which left him on the sidelines for a month.
"In the end the break turned out to be a good thing," he said "During that period I found the strength to achieve my goals." Now he wants more. "My goal for this year was to hold all the World Records from the 1500m to the 2000m. Eventually I want to have them all from the 1500m to the 5000m but I've got time for that."
The heir to the great Moroccan runner Said Aouita said he would concentrate next year on hunting one of few major titles to elude him, an Olympic gold medal. In 1996 in Atlanta, he had victory in sight when his heels were clipped and he stumbled over in the inner curb in the 1500m final, allowing Morceli to grab the goal.
"I was very sad but if I win in Sydney, I will forget all about that," he said. "The year after the Olympics, I will probably switch to the 3000m and the 5000m."
El Guerrouj obliged on Tuesday when asked to repeat yet again the mother's advice, which made him take up running. "My sport was soccer," he said. "I was a goalkeeper but my mother kept shouting at me because I always came home dirty." His mother no longer has anything to complain about. "She's happy now because I'm successful," he said. "And I’m a lot cleaner."