Djabir Saïd Guerni, Algeria (800m)
Born 29 March 1977, Algiers
1.87m, 70 kg.
Coach : his father, Zine-El-Abidine Saïd-Guerni
Djabir Saïd Guerni started athletics at age 13. Rapidly showed potential for middle-distance, recording 3:18 for 1200m at 15, just two seconds outside Noureddine Morcelli's personal best at the same age.
In 1993 selected for national U18 team for meeting with Portugal and Spain in Salamanca. The following year, finished third at 1500m in the ISF Gymnasiade in Cyprus. Meanwhile, older brother Chakib also had a taste of international success in the quartet that clinched a silver in the 4 x 100m at the African Junior Championships in Algiers.
Said Guerni’s coaches, Hemimi Hadj-Sahraoui and Amar Bouras, in charge of the rising elite, saw his future in the 1500m and worked to provide him with a good endurance base. For his part, the young man preferred the 400m. His first attempts at the intermediate distance, 800m, were clocked at about 1:52-1:53.
As a result, he took part to the 800m at the 1996 World Junior Championships having prepared as a 1500m runner and was eliminated in the heats. Then he decided to work under his father Zine, a PE teacher specializing in handball, who advocated training with speed and intensity rather than high mileage.
In 1997 and 1998, he gained ground on the regional level winning the 1997 Pan Arab Games 800m (1:46.84) and finishing 3rd at the 1998 African Championships in Dakar (1:46.31).
1999 turned to be a breakthrough year. A fortnight after clinching the World Military 800m title, he lowered his PB (1:45.72) through each of three rounds of the Seville World Championships (1:45.65; 1:45.17; 1:44.18) to claim an unexpected bronze. "In the final, I decided to go very early,” he recalls, “starting like a madman and getting caught by Wilson Kipketer (DEN) and Hezekiel Sepeng (RSA) in the end. That year, I felt that I had to take initiative. That is what I needed to get a name in athletics and get introduced to the circuit." At the end of the season, he confirmed his progress with a PB/NR 1:43.09 in Brussels GP.
The following year, after winning the African Championship in Algiers (1:45.88), he arrived in top shape for the Sydney Olympics before pulling a hamstring during a training session in Australia. Hiding his condition, still managed to reach final. Disaster loomed in the collision between Andrea Longo and Andre Bucher at 600m, which kept him from reacting when pace sped up. But a desperate surge from lane 5 enabled him to capture another bronze (1:45.16).
Career-threatening injury to the arch of the foot took him out for 2001. Refused to listen to doctors who told him to retire. Hard work and his father’s support enabled him to return to top level and feature well in the two events that counted most in 2002, retaining the his African Championships title in Tunis (1:45.52) ahead of William Yiampoy (KEN) and Mbulaeni Mulaudzi (RSA) and finishing second in the Madrid World Cup (1:44.03) behind Antonio Manuel Reina (ESP).
Preparations for 2003 affected by the health of his father, who underwent heart surgery in May and June. Raced little before the World Championships and was consigned to the B-race in Zurich, which he won (1:44.60). In Paris, ignored by all predictions, he ran a tactically perfect race to take gold in 1:44.81 (second slowest winning time in World Championships history).
In 2004, after placing no better than 3rd in seven races on the GP circuit (season best 1:44.87 in Zurich—the A race, this time) he once again came into the global championship as a dark horse, ready to take advantage of others’ tactical mistakes. After advancing on time from his heat (1:45.94), he took no chances in the semi-final, winning comfortably (1:45.76). In the final he took the lead from the gun and controlled the pace to suit himself but was unable to respond when the field attacked after the bell. He finished 7th (1:45.61). A season’s best in Brussels (1:44.44 for 5th) shows he still has something left for Monaco.
Yearly Progression: 1994 - 1:53; 1995 - 1:51; 1996 - 1:49.7; 1997- 1:46.84; 1998 - 1:45.72; 1999 - 1:43.09; 2000 - 1:43.25; 2001 - 1:44.55; 2002 - 1:44.03; 2003 - 1:44.60 ; 2004 – 1:44.44
In March 2001, Djabir Said Guerni married fellow Algerian Wassila Redouane, a fencer he met at the Sydney Olympics. The couple, who both represented Algeria in Athens as well, are based in Aubervilliers, in the northern suburbs of Paris, just three kilometres from the Stade de France, where Djabir clinched the world title last year. Said Guerni divides his time between France, Algeria, Cuba and the Gulf states, which are his favourite training sites.
Career highlights at 800m:
1997 1st Pan Arab Games / 3rd Mediterranean Games
1998 3rd African Championships
1999 3rd World Championships / 1st World Military Games /
2000 3rd Olympic Games / 1st African Championships
2001 ---------------- injured --------------
2002 1st African Championships / 2nd World Cup
2003 1st World Championships
2004 7th Olympic Games
Prepared by Carole Fuchs for the IAAF "Focus on Africans" project. © 2004 IAAF.