Updated February 23 2006
Hasna BENHASSI, (benHASSsee), Morocco (800m, 1500m)
Born: 1 June 1978, Marrakech.
Hasna Benhassi was already among the greatest Moroccan women athletes in history even before her silver medal 800m performances in the Athens Olympics and the Helsinki World Championships. She had won gold at 800m in the 2000 African Championships and at 1500m in the 2001 World Indoor Championships in Lisbon, becoming only the second female Moroccan athlete, after Nezha Bidouane, to win a World Championship title. But she has remained very much in the shadow of her brilliant compatriot, Hicham El Guerrouj. She hopes continued medal winning performances, including this year in Moscow, will finally enable her to emerge as a star on her own.
She began running for the Sidi Youssef Ben Ali track club in Marrakech. Following good results in high school, she was enrolled by the city’s leading club, Kawkab (The Star) and was later spotted by talent scouts from the Institut National d’Athlétisme of Rabat. She entered the Institute in 1996. "From then on, I knew I'd turn into a champion," she says. That same year she took part in the IAAF World Junior Championships in Sydney, where she reached the semi finals of the 800m.
Her ambition was soon rewarded with a gold in the 800m at the 1997 Mediterranean Games in Bari and another at the Pan-Arab Games in Beyrouth. At the Athens World Championships one month later, her lack of experience hurt, as she failed to reach the semi-finals. The following year, she took the silver medal at the African Championships in Dakar. While her 1999 performances on the European track circuit (1:57.45 in Lausanne) showed her to be a leading contender for the Seville World Championships, she was sidelined by a fractured shinbone that required surgery and long months of therapy.
Hasna wasn’t discouraged, however. After a modest 8th place at the Sydney Olympics, she captured her first major global title with her victory in the 1500m at the 2001 World Indoor Championships in Lisbon.
A few months later, Hasna (which means “charming”) took a break to have a baby. She and her husband, Mohssine Chéhibi (4th in the 800m at the Athens Olympics), named their daughter Farah (“joy “).
Following her sabbatical year, Hasna began competing again, and after a rather low key 2003, she was clearly back in fine form in 2004—nine races at 800m leading up to the Olympics, never finishing worse than 3rd, and six times going under 2:00. She cruised through the early rounds of the 800 in Athens, and in the final fell just short of besting Kelly Holmes’ stretch drive, coming 2nd by 0.05 in 1:56.43, and breaking her own national record. Boldly doubling in the 1500, she looked comfortable enough in the heats and semi-final to bid for a second medal, but the effect of her six tough races became evident in the 1500 final as she faded to 12th in 4:12.90.
In 2005, Hasna confirmed her star status with another silver at the Helsinki World Championships. Each time, though her excellent results have been overshadowed, first by Hicham El Guerrouj's historic 1500m-5000m double in Athens and then by Jaouad Gharib's successful defence of his marathon title in 2005. After achieving her early dreams, Hasna Benhassi is now eyeing a Beijing 2008 gold medal to crown her career.
Yearly progression 800/1500: 1996 - 2:04.6/ 4:22.0; 1997 - 2:00.48/--; 1998 - 1:58.47/ 4:05.15; 1999 - 1:57.45 NR/ 4:05.29; 2000 - 1:58.47/ 4:14.28; 2001 - --/4:04.48i NR; 2002 - --/ 4:05.28; 2003 - 2:01.08/ 4:02.54; 2004 - 1:56.43 NR/ 4:04.42 (Paris GL, 4th); 2005 – 1:58.41
Silver medal, 800m, World Championships, Helsinki, 2005
12th 1500m, Olympic Games, Athens, 2004
Silver medal, 800m, Olympic Games, Athens, 2004
8th 1500m, World Indoor Championships, Birmingham, 2003
Bronze medal, 1500m, African Championships, Tunis, 2002
Gold medal, 1500m, World Indoor Championships, Lisbon, 2001
8th 800m, Olympic Games, Sydney, 2000
Gold medal, 800m, African Championships, Algiers, 2000
5th 800m, World Indoor Championships, Maebashi, 1999
Silver medal, 800m, African Championships, Dakar, 1998
Semi-finalist, 800m, World Championships, Athens, 1997
Gold medal, 800m, Mediterranean Games, Bari, 1997
Semi-finalist, 800m, World Junior Championships, Sydney, 1996
Prepared by Mohammed Benchrif for the IAAF. © 2006 IAAF.