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El Guerrouj ready for new challenges

Nick Davies for the IAAF

Hicham El Guerrouj may be running the mile at the Honda Golden Gala on Friday, but his mind is already drifting towards the 5000m, an event he hopes to dominate from next year.

Morocco's double world champion at 1500m, speaking at a Press Conference earlier this afternoon, admitted that he was looking forward to the challenge of the longer distance. "My first real trial at this distance will come at the Weltklasse in Zurich (17 August) - which is just after I hope to have won gold at 1500m in Edmonton," said El Guerrouj. "I am aiming to run 12:45 for my first run at this distance and for my second attempt I have targeted 12:35."

El Guerrouj's confidence is based on his conditioning and his solid credentials as a junior at the longer distance. "I have trained a lot recently with some 5000m specialists in Morocco," he said, "and don't forget that I was third behind Haile Gebrselassie and Ismael Kirui at the 1992 World Junior Championships in Seoul at 5000m. A couple of years later, I also helped Morocco win the gold at the World Road Relay Championships in Greece [Litochoro]. So, in a way, although I set world records at the 1500m and mile, I was a 5000m runner first. And at 26 years-old, I am very happy that I am on the verge of a new career."

Although he refused to be drawn about an attempt on his own world record, also set in Rome, El Guerrouj did drop enigmatic hints: "I am really in great shape at the moment and won't be satisfied with anything less than a great performance. I could have run a 1500m here but, frankly, I am really much more confident about the longer distance ...