20 MAR 2002 General News

Vienna fall shouldn’t upset Mourhit’s Dublin defence

Vienna fall shouldn’t upset Mourhit’s Dublin defence
Chris Turner for the IAAF

20 March 2002 - At the beginning of March, Belgium’s Mohammed Mourhit, the reigning double men’s long course IAAF World Cross Country champion, made, what was for most spectators, a surprise season’s indoor debut, competing in the 3000 metres final at the European Indoor Championships in Vienna.

Unfortunately, while the race itself was always part of Mourhit’s preparations for his attempt at a ‘hat trick’ of World Cross Country titles in Dublin next weekend, the outcome of that Viennese interlude certainly was not! On the very first lap of the 3000 metres, Mourhit fell, eventually finishing a distant sixth (7:59.79).

Currently training with Maurice, his eldest brother and coach, in Ilfrane in their native Morocco, Mourhit concedes that Vienna was a great disappointment, particularly as it didn’t allow him to truly gauge his form. The trip to Austria was also the only interlude in a period of intensive training that began at New Year and will reach its crescendo in Dublin.

However, Mourhit’s time trials are faster, and he also believes he is in overall better physical shape than last year when he retained his long course title for the first time in Ostend, Belgium. The aim of a third gold medal is definitely feasible, after all “that is what we have been training for,” commented his brother.

Mourhit intends to travel to Dublin quite late this week, on Thursday 21st March or perhaps even Friday. “The race will be difficult and the Ethiopian team stand out as the toughest competitors,” confirmed Maurice, but “nevertheless he is extremely confident and with God’s help he will be the best once again.”

Mourhit, who has competed for Belgium since 1997, and is the first man to simultaneously hold European records on the track at 3000, 5000 and 10,000 metres since Finland’s Paavo Nurmi in the 1920’s, also has a very demanding summer schedule planned, competing in the IAAF Golden League meetings, the World Cup in Madrid and the European Championships in Munich.