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Young Mourhit has what it takes

Philippe Vande Weyer for IAAF

27 February 2001 - Two days after setting a personal best over 2 miles in the Energizer Indoor meeting in Ghent, where he finished 5th in 8.31.77 (7.55.81 at the 3.000 m mark), Hassan Mourhit stunned the Belgian athletics world on Sunday by winning the last stage of the Belgian Crosscup in Mol.

Still a junior at 19 (he was born on 2 January 1982), Mohammed Mourhit’s younger brother beat the entire senior field, finishing ahead of Dutch athletes Kamiel Maase and Aziz Bougra.

Hassan Mourhit had previously hoped to run in Lievin on Sunday. But the field was complete so he went out partying with some friends and family on Saturday night. "I saw in a newspaper around 1:00 am that there was a cross country race in Mol the next day. So I went to bed around 3:00 am to be ready for the race!"

Young Mourhit’s show of strengh is not a surprise for the people who know him. And the people who know him best are his two brothers Mohammed and Maurice, who is also his coach. "Hassan has the potential to eventually break the 1500m world record" says Maurice. "He’s very talented".

Although he thinks he could run the 1500m in 3:34, Hassan Mourhit still has no official mark on that distance. He spent the whole year 2000 acting as a sparring-partner for Mohammed. "For me, it was not a sacrifice. Mohammed is my brother and we are all helping each other in our family. Eventually, I know that he will help me too when my time comes".

Living and training constantly with the world cross-country champion has raised Hassan’s qualities. The way he won on Sunday is a good sign of what he’s worth. But before that, he will have another battle to win over Belgian laws.

Like his two brothers, Hassan has filed a request to become a Belgian citizen. The procedure was launched in 1997 and could be speeded up.

"I want to go to the world cross-country championships to run the junior race where I could win a medal. And I want to do it for Belgium. I don’t have any bad feelings against Morocco (he still lives in Khourigba and trains in Ifrane) but it would much more convenient to stay with my two brothers. If I’d choose to run for my native country, I most certainly would have to leave them and train with the other Moroccan juniors. I prefer my own system".

For sure, it has worked quite well so far!

Philippe Vande Weyer is the athletics correspondent for "Le Soir" in Brussels