Abdelkader El Mouaziz in the 2001 London Marathon (© Getty Images)
Morocco’s Abdelkader El Mouaziz will defend his title in this Sunday’s London Marathon. Last year’s race saw him gain a second victory in the British capital, following a win in 1999, and his time of 2:07:11 was the fourth fastest in the world in 2001.
33-year-old El Mouaziz, who has been training in Rabat, Ifrane and Mohammedia, says that he is ready for London and back on top form. He had suffered some health problems following the marathon in Edmonton last August (6th 2:15.41) due to an overcharged competition programme that saw him compete in five marathons over a 15-month period.
In Edmonton, Abdelkader suffered from dehydration and hypertension but still went on to complete the course and take sixth place, the highest placing ever for a Moroccan in the World Championships.
“Since Edmonton I preferred to take a two and half month break and skip the New York Marathon which I won in 2000,” said El Mouaziz, who also placed 7th in the 2000 Olympic Marathon in Sydney. “But now I am ready and have been having regular medical checks to avoid a repeat of my problems in Edmonton,” he affirmed.
El Mouaziz does not hide the disappointment he felt with his placing in Edmonton, where he had hoped to “offer Morocco its first medal of the Championships after missing out in Sydney; but my state of health did not allow this.”
The marathon has a special place in the hearts of the Moroccan people, especially since it was in this event that the country won its first Olympic medal, a silver, won by Adeslam Radi at Rome in 1960.
The competition will be fierce this weekend in London, with a strong Ethiopian contingent headed by the quadruple World and double Olympic 10,000 metres champion, Haile Gebrselassie and his compatriot Tesfaye Jifar, the winner of the New York Marathon last year.
“Even without Gezahegne Abera the World and Olympic marathon champion in the race, Gebre and Tesfaye are serious contenders, as is the Kenyan team with Paul Tergat,” reckons El Mouaziz. “Gebrselassie is the dark horse in this equation of favourites, as he is running the first marathon of his career. His victory last October at the World Half Marathon championships will encourage him and improve his chances.”
El Mouaziz has ambitions of improving the world best performance of 2:05:42 owned by his ex-compatriot Khalid Khannouchi, who currently runs in a USA vest.
“If I have a good result in London, I will have a go at the record in Berlin or Chicago. But to break the record, everything depends on the weather and the field you are up against.”
Abdelkader El Mouaziz has nearly ten marathon victories to his credit, including Marrakech three times (1996, 1997 and 1999), Madrid in 1994, London in 1999 and 2001, New York in 2000 and he became Arab champion in Cairo in 1995.
Next Sunday in London, he will run alongside Mohammed Hattab, who last year was 13th, and who won the gold medal in the Francophone Games in Ottawa in July 2001.
Mohammed Bencherif for the IAAF