August 29, 2004
Two golds way better than one
By ROB LONGLEY -- Toronto Sun
HE FAILED IN Sydney and fell in Atlanta. Today, Hicham El Guerrouj must feel as though he has scaled Mount Olympus.
The middle distance star from Morocco put some punch into the final night of the track and field competition at Olympic Stadium by adding the men's 5,000-metre title to the 1,500-metre one he claimed earlier in the week.
Saving a late kick for the final 100 metres, he swung to the middle of the track and stormed past Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia for the gold in a time of 13:14.39 seconds.
Just before collapsing to the ground in a mix of exhilaration and exhaustion, El Guerrouj raised two fingers in the air to signify his triumphant double.
"At the beginning of the year, I would have snapped someone's arm just to be in an Olympic final," said El Guerrouj, who had been fighting off injury.
"I was very optimistic before I came to Athens. This is an historic victory that I would like to dedicate to the Moroccan people and to the Arab world. Four years ago I cried tears of sadness, now I am crying tears of joy."
The victory last night was a bonus for El Guerrouj, who has dominated the 1,500 for the better part of a decade but had yet to secure Olympic gold.
Last night, he became the first athlete to win Olympic gold in both events at the same Games since Paavo Nurmi of Finland in 1924.
El Guerrouj said his storied background helped secure last night's win in an event for which he is not as well known.
"I benefitted from my experience," El Guerrouj said. "I took part in the 5,000-metre race on the last day of the Games and it was a good opportunity to go down in the history books."
The Moroccan wasn't the only runner to double up last night before another sellout crowd of 75,000.
Britain's Kelly Holmes captured the women's 1,500 metres in a season's best time of 3:57.90 to go with the 800-metre gold she won earlier in the Games.
Holmes launched her attack at the 250-metre mark.
"Words cannot express how I feel," Holmes said of the race in which Canadian Carmen Douma-Hussar of Cambridge finished ninth. "The 800 was a total shock and (yesterday) has just blown me away.
"I knew I was in good shape and I was just saying to myself, 'One more, one more.'
"I look at my medal every morning and get tears in my eyes."