A true champion and a national hero to Moroccans and to countless millions more sports enthusiasts around the world, the brilliant El Guerrouj made history in Athens when he became the first man in 80 years to win both the Olympic 1,500 metres and the 5,000 metres, matching the legendary Finn Paavo Nurmi in Paris in 1924.
El Guerrouj, then 29, came to Athens as the greatest middle distance runner in history never to win an Olympic gold medal. He missed out on what seemed like certain 1,500 metres gold in Atlanta in 1996 when he tripped, and then ran a poor tactical race in Sydney in 2000, but in Athens he corrected those mistakes in spectacular fashion. His 1,500 metres victory in Athens was voted IAAF Male Performance of the Year.
In those four memorable days in Athens, he crowned a glorious career in which he has rewritten the world record books at 1,500 metres, the Mile and 2,000 metres.
He has dominated the 1,500 metres since 1995, winning the World Championship in 1997, 1999, 2001 and 2003 and setting world records in the 1,500 metres both indoors and outdoors. Over a nine-year period, El Guerrouj raced in 86 finals at 1,500 metres and the Mile and won 83 of those races.