In Athens the great middle distance runner Hicham El Guerrouj became the only other man besides Finland’s Paavo Nurmi to win both the 1500m and 5000m at the same Olympic Games. The great Moroccan recently announced he would retire in 2006 but added goals for 2005 that as well as contesting the World Cross Country Chgampionships, he would also emulate another monumental Nurmi feat on the track.
El Guerrouj will be aiming to set a World record for 5000m (currently held by Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele - 12:37.35). If he accomplishes this he would join the legendary “Flying Finn” in another rather exclusive club of men who have broken World records at both 1500 and 5000 metres during their careers.
Nurmi was the first in the IAAF era setting a 1500 mark of 3:52.6 in 1924 and at 5000 in both 1922 and 1924. Two decades later Sweden’s Gunder Hagg lowered the 1500 record three times between 1941 and 1944 and added a 5000 clocking in 1942. The final member of the 1500/5000 club was Morocco’s Said Aouita who ran World records for both 1500 and 5000 in 1985 and then two years later became the first man under 13 minutes at the latter distance.
It should be noted that all three of these men included another World record on their resumes at an intermediate distance, albeit the non-championship one of 2000m. El Guerrouj also stands to become the fourth metric tripler as he is the current record holder for five laps of the track.
However he would become only the third at the 1500m/One Mile/5000m triple as Aouita never set a World record at the classic distance while Nurmi did so once and Hagg three times.
Nurmi and Hagg, in fact, are the ultimate middle distance World record versatility kings as they both also set records at 3000m in their careers. El Guerrouj’s best currently sits him in second place all-time at that distance, about two and half-seconds from Daniel Komen’s mark. But if he is in good enough shape to run 12:37 next year, he just might be able to add a sub-7:20.67 as well.
Marty Post for the IAAF