Hicham El Guerrouj and Robert Korzeniowski are among the 2014 inductees into the IAAF Hall of Fame and the two athletics legends faced the press in Monaco on Thursday (20).
Both men gave interesting and provocative answers to some questions posed by the international media.
Q: Robert, Yohann Diniz is talking about doing the 20km and 50km race walk double in Rio. What advice would you give him? (Korzeniowski is the only man to win both events at a single Olympic Games, a feat he achieved in 2000.)
Robert Korzeniowski: It depends on the timetable (if Diniz has a chance of winning two gold medals). If it’s six days then that’s fine, if it’s shorter then it will be very hard. Otherwise, the only bit of advice I can give to Yohann is that training for the 50km is not the same as 20km and he’s getting older, and the human body needs more recovery in training. He will have to be very smart in training, very precise in his planning and, for sure, it will be different from what he has done before.
This is also an intellectual challenge. If he does it, it will be a big surprise for me because the world of 50km has changed a lot. The progress that has been made in the last 10 years since I last raced 50km has been tremendous.
The 50km is now very demanding. You can’t just play funny games up to 30 kilometres and then accelerate. No, it’s from the start to end. High heart rate, high concentration; you can’t now choose one distance that you like more and then do the other one. You now have to do both 100 percent and it’s hard.
Q: Hicham, your world records have been standing for some years. Is there anyone you see who could improve your records in the 1500m?
Hicham El Guerrouj: First of all, I would I like to remind everyone that when Wilson Kipketer set the 800m world record back in 1997, a lot of people said that it would be very difficult to beat and that it would stand for a long time, but it was beaten. Of course, the 1500m world record is difficult, but it can be broken. However, the only athlete I currently see capable of breaking it is Asbel Kiprop.
He has everything you need. He’s tall, he’s got a long stride, he has strength, he’s strong mentally; perhaps he needs to work a little on his technique but he’s the only one I see who has the characteristics. In fact, I think he could go under 3:25.
It won’t be easy but he can do it.
The other thing to remember is that in middle-distance races you have to make choices, you have to set priorities. It’s very difficult in the same year to go for a world record and a major title.
Asbel runs a lot (of races) and sometimes I have the feeling that he’s not really setting his priorities very clearly and this is something that he’s going to have to do. Next year, he has the World Championships and the chance to win his third world title; in 2016, he has the chance to win his second Olympic title.
He does have all the characteristics to break the world record but he’s also going to have to set his priorities.
Q: Hicham, with Doha having just been awarded the 2019 IAAF World Championships, when do you think Africa will be able to organise such an event?
Hicham El Guerrouj: Africa has given so much to the sport and it would be great if Africa can one day organise the World Championships but, to do that, we need to change our thinking. We (African federations) need to work more with the governments because a big event like a World Championships can’t be organised without government support in that country.
We need the federations to change their way of thinking and to approach the government so that when we organise such an event it is a win-win situation for everybody.
If an African country was to win the right to host the World Championships, I would be the happiest person on the planet.
We also need to realise that at the moment there are only certain areas in Africa that can organise a World Championships. North Africa, Kenya and South Africa are the only realistic possibilities to organise the championships at the moment.
With 2019 having just been awarded, there has been some talk about which cities will present their candidature for 2021 so we have to look further (for an African bid for the World Championships) to 2023, 2025 and 2027.
Phil Minshull for the IAAF