Athlete Profile

Hatem Ghoula

  • COUNTRY Tunisia Tunisia
  • DATE OF BIRTH 7 JUN 1973
Race walker Hatem Ghoula of Tunisia (Getty Images)
Race walker Hatem Ghoula of Tunisia (Getty Images)
  • COUNTRY Tunisia Tunisia
  • DATE OF BIRTH 7 JUN 1973


Focus on Athletes biographies are produced by the IAAF Communications Dept, and not by the IAAF Statistics and Documentation Division. If you have any enquiries concerning the information, please use the Contact IAAF page, selecting ‘Focus on Athletes Biographies’ in the drop down menu of contact area options.


Updated 7 August 2008


Hatem GHOULA, Tunisia (20km Walk, 50km Walk)

Born 7 June 1973, 1.80m / 67kg 
Club : Zitouna Sports

Hatem Ghoula, multiple African champion and record holder in the walks, came to athletics by chance. Had he stayed in France, he would have never made such a career in sports. The son of a migrant, he moved back to Gabès in Southern Tunisia, with his parents and younger sister, aged 15.

Ghoula’s uncle, Hedi Najeh, an athletics coach in the city, took him one day to the stadium. There, one could start either with the sprints, like in any club in the south, where the best Tunisian sprinters hail from, or with the walks. In regard to his build-up, he was first asked to try the hurdles, but after failing to improve, he was advised by his uncle to switch to the walks.

Race Walking had been rather a neglected event in Tunisia until then, with very few athletes, three clubs where it was taught, and only one event organised each year, the national championships.

Ghoula’s debut was to radically transform the event in the country, but it did not come in one day as, besides his results, the federation’s technical directors were not easily convinced about his technical perfection. In 1989, Ghoula won Tunisia’s youth title in the10.000m, clocking 57:32.6, and the following year he broke the 8000m national youth record with 44:50.00.

In 1991, he took the national junior title in the 10.000m (49:00.6) and ranked third in the senior men’s 20.000m finishing in 1:46:47.6 in his first attempt over the distance. But it brought no change to his situation. His uncle suggested he move to Sousse’s better structured club, Etoile Sportive du Sahel (Sahel Sporting Star), which boasted a few good walkers and a coach renowned for his technical skills: Hassen Hamzi. It was the turning point of his career.

In 1992, he broke the 10.000m African junior record in Tunis in 42:06.0 and, during his first training camp abroad, the senior record in 39:26. He thus earned his selection for the 1993 World Championships, in Stuttgart, where he was ranked 32nd for his first 20Km in 1:33:24, a Tunisian record.

In 1994, Ghoula benefited from a special training programme to adjust to the 20km. He clocked 1:28:57 in France and broke the 20.000m African record in Germany in 1:22:51.84. The following year, he set a new African record in the 20km, clocking 1:20:37 and clinched his first Arab title, in Cairo, under national coach Erhard Labidi. But he could do no better than 30th at the 1995 World Championships in Göteborg (1:32:17).

In 1996, Hatem claimed his first African gold in Yaoundé (Cameroon) with a time of 1:29:48, but finished 32nd at the Atlanta Olympics.  The following year he changed coach and went to work with Mohamed Alouini, a former 800m runner. Under his guidance, he had his best season that far, winning the Barcelona meet, breaking the African record in Eisenhüttenstadt  (1:19:02, still his best mark), claiming the gold medal at the Francophone Games, in Antananarivo, the bronze at the Mediterranean Games, in Bari, and just missing a finalist place at the World Championships in Athens, where he finished 9th in 1:23:49.

Following his African record in the 10.000m (38:24.31), and his African title in Dakar in 1998, Hatem started the 1999 season with lots of ambition. However, he had to settle for 16th at the World Race Walking Cup in Mézidon (France) and 15th at the World Championships, in Sevilla. In between he clinched gold at the Pan Arab Games, in Jordan, and at the African Race Walking Championships, in Algeria.

In 2000, Hatem came back to former coach Erahrd Labidi to better prepare for the Olympics. After his African title in July in Algiers, he didn’t arrive in top shape in Sydney where he placed 36th in 1:28:16.

In 2001, he benefited from better training conditions in the lead up to the Mediterranean Games to be held in Tunisia. He ranked 10th at the 2001 World Championships in Edmonton (1:23:14) and took gold both at the Francophone Games in Ottawa-Hull and at the Mediterranean Games in Radès.

The same stadium in Radès hosted the 2002 African Championships where Hatem added a new title to his tally. He then placed 9th at the World Cup in Turin (1:23:49) and broke the African record at his first attempt over 50km (3:59:56).  In 2003, he finished 14th at the World Championships, in Paris, and claimed gold at the All Africa Games, in Abuja.

In 2004, for his third participation at the Olympics he achieved his best placing, 11th  (1:22:59) but finished 41st of the World Cup in Naumburg in 1:24:56.  But he added another gold from the Pan-Arab Games in Algiers. 

Gaining in experience and maturity, Ghoula got closer to podiums in world events.  He finished 5th at the 2005 World Championships, in Helsinki (1:20:19), and 4th at the World Race Walking Cup last year in La Coruña (1:19:36).

In 2007, after bettering his own African record over 50km, clocking 3:58:44 in Spain in March and winning gold at the All Africa Games, in Algiers, Ghoula was determined to go for the major medal that was still missing from his rich tally at the World Championships in Osaka.

In Osaka, Ghoula joined Jefferson Pérez in the lead at the 15 km mark, as Francisco Javier Fernandez seemed to wilt behind them. Pérez then pulled away in front, and the Tunisian seemed on his way to a historic silver. Ghoula however slowed the pace in the final part of the race in the Osaka stadium, afraid he may be disqualified and started waiving to the crowd, unaware that the Spaniard was closing the gap behind him. In the very last metres, “Paquillo” managed to surge and snatch the silver, pushing Ghoula back to bronze with a dramatic finish that first saw the Spaniard disqualified than reinstated into second place.

Hatem Ghoula however remained upbeat after the initial disappointment. “I've been quite consistent in the last few years, 5th in Helsinki, 4th at last year's World Cup. I'm so happy to get a medal for my 8th participation in the World Championships, besides it is the first Tunisian medal in the history of the competition.”

The Osaka performance helped the All Africa Champion secure 5th place in the overall IAAF Race Walking Challenge.

That medal was also very important back in Tunisia, where Ghoula received a warm welcome, earning him great popularity as he had offered the first Olympic medal to Tunisian sports. After that, Hatem was chosen by national press the as best sportsman in Tunisia in 2007.

This gratitude came at the right time as it encouraged him to do his best in order to win the only medal that he longed for: 33rd in Atlanta, 36th  in Sydney and 11th  in Athens, Hatem is looking for his opportunity to come.

In 2008, Ghoula placed 2nd in Santa Eularia des Riu (Spain) on 15 March (1:23:42) and 7th at the Olympic Test Event in Beijing on 18 April (1:21:58). At the World Race Walking Cup in Cheboksary, he was 11th (1:19.42) and later placed 2nd (1:21. 52) in the traditional Cantones de La Coruña event on 7 June.

In Beijing, Ghoula will participate in both the 20 km and 50 km so as to have the maximum chances to achieve his goal. He as raced sparingly this year but concocted a rich programme composed of many training periods in South Africa, France, China and South Korea.  Based in the far eastern country since the beginning of July to finish his training, Ghoula feels he is ready to win his challenge in Beijing.


Yearly progression

 20k Walk: 1993 – 1:33:24; 1995 – 1:20.37; 1996 – 1:21:45; 1997 – 1:19.02 ; 1998 – 1:23:19; 1999 – 1:19:46; 2000 – 1:25:38; 2001 – 1:21:41; 2002 – 1:23:49;  2003 – 1:21:12; 2004 – 1:20:38; 2005 - 1:20:19; 2006 – 1:19:36; 2007 – 1:20:40; 2008 – 1:19:54

 

Records

5000m:  18.05.49 01-05-97  Tunis   Tunisian record
10.000m:  38.24.31  30-05-98 Tunis   African record
20.000m:  1h.22.51.84  08-09-94  Leutkirch   African record
10 km:  38.12   28-05-2000  Sesto S.Giovanni  African record
20 km: 1h.19.02  10-05-97 Eisenhüttenstadt  African record
50 km: 3h.58.44.  24-03-07 Santa Eularia des Riu African record


Career highlights

2008  11th  World Race Walking Cup
2007  3rd  World Championships
2007   1st All Africa Games
2006  2nd  African Championships
2006  4th  World Race Walking Cup
2005  5th  World Championships
2005  1st African Race Walking Championships
2004  11th  Olympic Games
2004  41st  World Race Walking Cup
2004  1st  Pan Arab Games 
2003  14th  World Championships
2003   1st All Africa Games
2002  9th  World Race Walking Cup
2002  1st  African Championships
2001  10th  World Championships
2001  1st  Francophone Games 
2001  1st  Mediterranean Games
2000  36th  Olympic Games
2000  1st  African Championships
1999  16th World Championships
1999  1st  Pan Arab Games 
1999  1st African Race Walking Championships
1999  15th  World Race Walking Cup
1998  1st  African Championships
1997  1st  Francophone Games
1997   9th World Championships
1997  1st Mediterranean Games
1996  33rd  Olympic Games
1996  1st  African Championships
1995  30th  World Championships
1995  1st Arab Championships
1993  32nd World Championships

Prepared by Taoufik Gacem for the IAAF ‘Focus on Athletes’ project. © IAAF 2007-2008.

Personal Best - Outdoor
Performance Wind Place Date
3000 Metres Race Walk 11:26.34 Cork 02 JUL 2011
5000 Metres Race Walk 18:45.05 Paris (JB) 17 JUN 2007
10,000 Metres Race Walk 38:24.31 Tunis 30 MAY 1998
10 Kilometres Race Walk 39:19 Paris Saint-Denis 23 AUG 2003
20,000 Metres Race Walk 1:22:51.84 Leutkirch 08 SEP 1994
20 Kilometres Race Walk 1:19:02 Eisenhüttenstadt 10 MAY 1997
30,000 Metres Race Walk 2:19:21.4 Reims 12 MAR 2011
50 Kilometres Race Walk 3:58:44 Santa Eularia des Riu 04 MAR 2007
Personal Best - Indoor
Performance Wind Place Date
5000 Metres Race Walk 20:05.95 Aubière 19 FEB 2011
Progression - Outdoor showShow All Graphs
3000 Metres Race Walk Show Graphshow
Performance Place Date
2011 11:26.34 Cork 02 JUL
2007 12:08.49 Potchefstroom 02 FEB
1999 11:34.2 Potchefstroom 05 FEB
5000 Metres Race Walk Show Graphshow
Performance Place Date
2011 19:47.77 Argentan 05 JUN
2009 19:27.56 Montreuil-sous-Bois 11 JUN
2007 18:45.05 Paris (JB) 17 JUN
2003 18:57.32 Radés 28 JUN
10,000 Metres Race Walk Show Graphshow
Performance Place Date
2003 39:30.14 Tunis 12 APR
2000 38:39.82 Tunis 03 JUN
1998 38:24.31 Tunis 30 MAY
1995 39:01.35 Tunis 01 MAY
1992 42:06.0 Tunis 01 MAY
10 Kilometres Race Walk Show Graphshow
Performance Place Date
2009 39:23 Kraków 30 MAY
2005 39:43 La Coruña 04 JUN
2003 39:19 Paris Saint-Denis 23 AUG
20,000 Metres Race Walk Show Graphshow
Performance Place Date
1994 1:22:51.84 Leutkirch 08 SEP
20 Kilometres Race Walk Show Graphshow
Performance Place Date
2013 1:24:06 La Coruña 01 JUN
2012 1:23:58 Os 08 JUL
2011 1:28:47 St. Renan 17 APR
2009 1:26:12 Wuxi 18 APR
2008 1:19:54 Cheboksary 10 MAY
2007 1:20:40 Kraków 23 JUN
2006 1:19:36 La Coruña 13 MAY
2005 1:20:19 Helsinki 06 AUG
2004 1:20:38 La Coruña 05 JUN
2003 1:21:12 Paris Saint-Denis 23 AUG
2002 1:23:49 Torino 12 OCT
2001 1:21:41 Eisenhüttenstadt 09 JUN
2000 1:25:38 Alger 11 JUL
1999 1:19:46 Calella 09 MAY
1997 1:19:02 Eisenhüttenstadt 10 MAY
1996 1:25:52 Atlanta, GA 26 JUL
1995 1:20:37 14 MAY
1993 1:33:24 Stuttgart 15 AUG
30,000 Metres Race Walk Show Graphshow
Performance Place Date
2011 2:19:21.4 Reims 12 MAR
50 Kilometres Race Walk Show Graphshow
Performance Place Date
2008 4:03:47 Beijing (National Stadium) 22 AUG
2007 3:58:44 Santa Eularia des Riu 04 MAR
2002 3:59:56 Naumburg 05 MAY
Progression - Indoor showShow All Graphs
5000 Metres Race Walk Show Graphshow
Performance Place Date
2011 20:05.95 Aubière 19 FEB
Honours - 10 Kilometres Race Walk
Rank Mark Wind Place Date
9th IAAF World Championships in Athletics 10 39:19 Paris Saint-Denis 23 AUG 2003
Honours - 20 Kilometres Race Walk
Rank Mark Wind Place Date
14th IAAF World Championships 27 1:25:41 Moskva (Luzhniki) 11 AUG 2013
The XXIX Olympic Games 27 1:23:44 Beijing (National Stadium) 16 AUG 2008
23rd IAAF World Race Walking Cup 11 1:19:54 Cheboksary 10 MAY 2008
11th IAAF World Championships in Athletics 3 1:22:40 Osaka 26 AUG 2007
22nd IAAF World Race Walking Cup 4 1:19:36 La Coruña 13 MAY 2006
10th IAAF World Championships in Athletics 5 1:20:19 Helsinki 06 AUG 2005
28th Olympic Games 11 1:22:59 Athína (Olympic Stadium) 20 AUG 2004
21st IAAF World Race Walking Cup 41 1:24:56 Naumburg 02 MAY 2004
9th IAAF World Championships in Athletics 14 1:21:12 Paris Saint-Denis 23 AUG 2003
20th IAAF World Race Walking Cup 9 1:23:49 Torino 12 OCT 2002
8th IAAF World Championships 10 1:23:14 Edmonton 04 AUG 2001
27th Olympic Games 36 1:28:16 Sydney 22 SEP 2000
7th IAAF World Championships in Athletics 16 1:28:36 Sevilla 21 AUG 1999
19th IAAF World Race Walking Cup 15 1:23:46 Mézidon-Canon 01 MAY 1999
6th IAAF World Championships In Athletics 9 1:23:49 Athína 02 AUG 1997
XXVI Olympic Games 33 1:25:52 Atlanta, GA 26 JUL 1996
5th IAAF World Championships in Athletics 30 1:32:17 Göteborg 06 AUG 1995
4th IAAF World Championships in Athletics 32 1:33:24 Stuttgart 15 AUG 1993
Honours - 50 Kilometres Race Walk
Rank Mark Wind Place Date
The XXIX Olympic Games 33 4:03:47 Beijing (National Stadium) 22 AUG 2008


Focus on Athletes biographies are produced by the IAAF Communications Dept, and not by the IAAF Statistics and Documentation Division. If you have any enquiries concerning the information, please use the Contact IAAF page, selecting ‘Focus on Athletes Biographies’ in the drop down menu of contact area options.


Updated 7 August 2008


Hatem GHOULA, Tunisia (20km Walk, 50km Walk)

Born 7 June 1973, 1.80m / 67kg 
Club : Zitouna Sports

Hatem Ghoula, multiple African champion and record holder in the walks, came to athletics by chance. Had he stayed in France, he would have never made such a career in sports. The son of a migrant, he moved back to Gabès in Southern Tunisia, with his parents and younger sister, aged 15.

Ghoula’s uncle, Hedi Najeh, an athletics coach in the city, took him one day to the stadium. There, one could start either with the sprints, like in any club in the south, where the best Tunisian sprinters hail from, or with the walks. In regard to his build-up, he was first asked to try the hurdles, but after failing to improve, he was advised by his uncle to switch to the walks.

Race Walking had been rather a neglected event in Tunisia until then, with very few athletes, three clubs where it was taught, and only one event organised each year, the national championships.

Ghoula’s debut was to radically transform the event in the country, but it did not come in one day as, besides his results, the federation’s technical directors were not easily convinced about his technical perfection. In 1989, Ghoula won Tunisia’s youth title in the10.000m, clocking 57:32.6, and the following year he broke the 8000m national youth record with 44:50.00.

In 1991, he took the national junior title in the 10.000m (49:00.6) and ranked third in the senior men’s 20.000m finishing in 1:46:47.6 in his first attempt over the distance. But it brought no change to his situation. His uncle suggested he move to Sousse’s better structured club, Etoile Sportive du Sahel (Sahel Sporting Star), which boasted a few good walkers and a coach renowned for his technical skills: Hassen Hamzi. It was the turning point of his career.

In 1992, he broke the 10.000m African junior record in Tunis in 42:06.0 and, during his first training camp abroad, the senior record in 39:26. He thus earned his selection for the 1993 World Championships, in Stuttgart, where he was ranked 32nd for his first 20Km in 1:33:24, a Tunisian record.

In 1994, Ghoula benefited from a special training programme to adjust to the 20km. He clocked 1:28:57 in France and broke the 20.000m African record in Germany in 1:22:51.84. The following year, he set a new African record in the 20km, clocking 1:20:37 and clinched his first Arab title, in Cairo, under national coach Erhard Labidi. But he could do no better than 30th at the 1995 World Championships in Göteborg (1:32:17).

In 1996, Hatem claimed his first African gold in Yaoundé (Cameroon) with a time of 1:29:48, but finished 32nd at the Atlanta Olympics.  The following year he changed coach and went to work with Mohamed Alouini, a former 800m runner. Under his guidance, he had his best season that far, winning the Barcelona meet, breaking the African record in Eisenhüttenstadt  (1:19:02, still his best mark), claiming the gold medal at the Francophone Games, in Antananarivo, the bronze at the Mediterranean Games, in Bari, and just missing a finalist place at the World Championships in Athens, where he finished 9th in 1:23:49.

Following his African record in the 10.000m (38:24.31), and his African title in Dakar in 1998, Hatem started the 1999 season with lots of ambition. However, he had to settle for 16th at the World Race Walking Cup in Mézidon (France) and 15th at the World Championships, in Sevilla. In between he clinched gold at the Pan Arab Games, in Jordan, and at the African Race Walking Championships, in Algeria.

In 2000, Hatem came back to former coach Erahrd Labidi to better prepare for the Olympics. After his African title in July in Algiers, he didn’t arrive in top shape in Sydney where he placed 36th in 1:28:16.

In 2001, he benefited from better training conditions in the lead up to the Mediterranean Games to be held in Tunisia. He ranked 10th at the 2001 World Championships in Edmonton (1:23:14) and took gold both at the Francophone Games in Ottawa-Hull and at the Mediterranean Games in Radès.

The same stadium in Radès hosted the 2002 African Championships where Hatem added a new title to his tally. He then placed 9th at the World Cup in Turin (1:23:49) and broke the African record at his first attempt over 50km (3:59:56).  In 2003, he finished 14th at the World Championships, in Paris, and claimed gold at the All Africa Games, in Abuja.

In 2004, for his third participation at the Olympics he achieved his best placing, 11th  (1:22:59) but finished 41st of the World Cup in Naumburg in 1:24:56.  But he added another gold from the Pan-Arab Games in Algiers. 

Gaining in experience and maturity, Ghoula got closer to podiums in world events.  He finished 5th at the 2005 World Championships, in Helsinki (1:20:19), and 4th at the World Race Walking Cup last year in La Coruña (1:19:36).

In 2007, after bettering his own African record over 50km, clocking 3:58:44 in Spain in March and winning gold at the All Africa Games, in Algiers, Ghoula was determined to go for the major medal that was still missing from his rich tally at the World Championships in Osaka.

In Osaka, Ghoula joined Jefferson Pérez in the lead at the 15 km mark, as Francisco Javier Fernandez seemed to wilt behind them. Pérez then pulled away in front, and the Tunisian seemed on his way to a historic silver. Ghoula however slowed the pace in the final part of the race in the Osaka stadium, afraid he may be disqualified and started waiving to the crowd, unaware that the Spaniard was closing the gap behind him. In the very last metres, “Paquillo” managed to surge and snatch the silver, pushing Ghoula back to bronze with a dramatic finish that first saw the Spaniard disqualified than reinstated into second place.

Hatem Ghoula however remained upbeat after the initial disappointment. “I've been quite consistent in the last few years, 5th in Helsinki, 4th at last year's World Cup. I'm so happy to get a medal for my 8th participation in the World Championships, besides it is the first Tunisian medal in the history of the competition.”

The Osaka performance helped the All Africa Champion secure 5th place in the overall IAAF Race Walking Challenge.

That medal was also very important back in Tunisia, where Ghoula received a warm welcome, earning him great popularity as he had offered the first Olympic medal to Tunisian sports. After that, Hatem was chosen by national press the as best sportsman in Tunisia in 2007.

This gratitude came at the right time as it encouraged him to do his best in order to win the only medal that he longed for: 33rd in Atlanta, 36th  in Sydney and 11th  in Athens, Hatem is looking for his opportunity to come.

In 2008, Ghoula placed 2nd in Santa Eularia des Riu (Spain) on 15 March (1:23:42) and 7th at the Olympic Test Event in Beijing on 18 April (1:21:58). At the World Race Walking Cup in Cheboksary, he was 11th (1:19.42) and later placed 2nd (1:21. 52) in the traditional Cantones de La Coruña event on 7 June.

In Beijing, Ghoula will participate in both the 20 km and 50 km so as to have the maximum chances to achieve his goal. He as raced sparingly this year but concocted a rich programme composed of many training periods in South Africa, France, China and South Korea.  Based in the far eastern country since the beginning of July to finish his training, Ghoula feels he is ready to win his challenge in Beijing.


Yearly progression

 20k Walk: 1993 – 1:33:24; 1995 – 1:20.37; 1996 – 1:21:45; 1997 – 1:19.02 ; 1998 – 1:23:19; 1999 – 1:19:46; 2000 – 1:25:38; 2001 – 1:21:41; 2002 – 1:23:49;  2003 – 1:21:12; 2004 – 1:20:38; 2005 - 1:20:19; 2006 – 1:19:36; 2007 – 1:20:40; 2008 – 1:19:54

 

Records

5000m:  18.05.49 01-05-97  Tunis   Tunisian record
10.000m:  38.24.31  30-05-98 Tunis   African record
20.000m:  1h.22.51.84  08-09-94  Leutkirch   African record
10 km:  38.12   28-05-2000  Sesto S.Giovanni  African record
20 km: 1h.19.02  10-05-97 Eisenhüttenstadt  African record
50 km: 3h.58.44.  24-03-07 Santa Eularia des Riu African record


Career highlights

2008  11th  World Race Walking Cup
2007  3rd  World Championships
2007   1st All Africa Games
2006  2nd  African Championships
2006  4th  World Race Walking Cup
2005  5th  World Championships
2005  1st African Race Walking Championships
2004  11th  Olympic Games
2004  41st  World Race Walking Cup
2004  1st  Pan Arab Games 
2003  14th  World Championships
2003   1st All Africa Games
2002  9th  World Race Walking Cup
2002  1st  African Championships
2001  10th  World Championships
2001  1st  Francophone Games 
2001  1st  Mediterranean Games
2000  36th  Olympic Games
2000  1st  African Championships
1999  16th World Championships
1999  1st  Pan Arab Games 
1999  1st African Race Walking Championships
1999  15th  World Race Walking Cup
1998  1st  African Championships
1997  1st  Francophone Games
1997   9th World Championships
1997  1st Mediterranean Games
1996  33rd  Olympic Games
1996  1st  African Championships
1995  30th  World Championships
1995  1st Arab Championships
1993  32nd World Championships

Prepared by Taoufik Gacem for the IAAF ‘Focus on Athletes’ project. © IAAF 2007-2008.