Mr Bean Quits

King of Middle Distance, Hicham El Guerrouj retires
Monday 22 May 2006
Monte-Carlo – The quadruple World 1500m champion and record holder Hicham El Guerrouj has this evening confirmed his decision to retire.

“I am quitting competition,” said a tearful El Guerrouj at a press conference in Casablanca, Morocco, this evening. “I hope the authorities and Moroccan athletes will continue to work so Moroccan athletics continues to be strong.”

Hicham El Guerrouj of Morocco takes the 5000m gold
(Getty Images)

“I have no willingness or motivation to continue competing. I am quitting racing to spend more time with my family and focus
on my business.”

But “today’s tears are of joy and not of pain,” said El Guerrouj. “I end my career of 19 years officially, in which you (Moroccans) and I, have lived through many happy moments. I thank all those who have accompanied me throughout my career. I thank my family, my wife, my daughter and his majesty the King.”

The 31-year-old Moroccan had not run since 28 August 2004 when in winning the 5000m final in Athens, Greece, he completed an historic Olympic 1500m and 5000m double, a feat which had not been achieved since another legend of the track Paavo Nurmi (FIN) accomplished it in 1924.

Hicham El Guerrouj takes his second Olympic gold in Athens
(Getty Images)

The current holder of the World records for the 1500m and the One Mile, both indoors and out, and the fastest ever mark for the 2000m, El Guerrouj can arguably be rated as one, if not the greatest ever 1500m / Miler of all-time, a veritable ‘King of Middle Distance Running’.

IAAF President Lamine Diack has tonight issued the following message in honour of El Guerrouj’s career:

“I heard the news about Hicham El Guerrouj’s decision to retire with a lot of emotion. Hicham is a living legend of our sport.”

“Ever since his first international appearance as a Junior at the 1992 World Cross Country Championships, he has brightened up the athletics’ world with his excellent performances, impressed with his elegant running style, and drawn gasps because of his determination to always push back the boundaries of his own limits.”

“But what I want to remember about his exemplary career is not only his multiple records, world records and other hard-earned honours, but above all else, his generosity and kindness as a human being. For me, Hicham represents a formidable ambassador for Morocco, for Africa, for the Arab world, and above all, for World Athletics and the IAAF.”

“My most poignant memory of Hicham came at the last Olympics Games in Athens where, following his bitter disappointments at the two previous Olympics, he overcame his demons to win the 1500m, but also, incredibly, the 5000m where he beat the mighty Kenenisa Bekele. Watching from the stands, as Hicham achieved this amazing double, I shared the emotion and happiness of all athletics fans.”

“Now, I hope Hicham will continue to be involved with our sport. He is already an active member of the IAAF’s Athletes’ Commission and I am going to ask him to now become one of the ‘IAAF Ambassador Team’. I really hope that by doing so, he will share his experiences and wisdom with a new generation of athletes.”

“Thank you very much Hicham, and good luck with all your future endeavours!”

Career Summary

Hicham El Guerrouj MAR, Born 14 September 1974

Senior global championships

1995 World Indoor Champs – 1500m gold
1995 World Champs – 1500m silver
1996 Olympic Games – 1500m 12th (fell)
1997 World Indoor Champs – 1500m gold
1997 World Champs – 1500m gold
1999 World Champs – 1500m gold
2000 Olympic Games – 1500m silver
2001 World Indoor champs – 3000m gold
2001 World Champs – 1500m gold
2003 World Champs – 1500m gold; 5000m silver
2004 Olympic Games – 1500m gold; 5000m gold

World Records

1500m 3:31.18 indoors Stuttgart GER, 2 Feb 1997
1500m 3:26.00 Rome ITA, 14 July 1997
Mile 3:48.45 indoors Gent BEL, 12 Feb 1997
Mile 3:43.13 Rome ITA, 7 July 1999
2000m 4:44.79 Berlin GER, 7 September 1999

Three-time IAAF Golden League Jackpot winner - 1998, 2001, 2003.


NB. Hicham quotes thanks to AFP and Reuters

Last Updated: Monday, 22 May 2006, 19:05 GMT 20:05 UK

El Guerrouj finishes great career

Double Olympic champion Hicham El Guerrouj has announced his retirement.
The Moroccan, the 1500m world record holder, claimed a brilliant 1500m and 5,000m double at the Athens Games to add to his four 1500m world titles.

But the man thought to be the greatest 1500m runner of all time has not raced since Athens because of injury.

At a news conference, a tearful El Guerrouj described his decision as “historic and difficult”, saying he was crying out of “joy and not sadness”.

El Guerrouj said he had not slept well since winning his doble gold in Athens.

“I took the decision to retire because I suddenly began to sleep well three weeks ago,” he said.

“During this period I was in a state of flux, I just did not know whether I should run or stop. Now it is done, I am relieved.”

"I have no willingness or motivation to continue competing. I am quitting racing to spend more time with my family and focus on my business.

“For 16 years, I’ve done sports. Now I want to start a new life. I will return to another world whose horizons I do not know.”

A back injury forced the 31-year-old out of this year’s World Indoor Championships in Moscow.

El Guerrouj also left it late before deciding to withdraw from the 2005 Worlds because of a virus. He then declared he would take the rest of the year off before racing a farewell season in 2006.

The “King of the Mile” felt he had nothing left to achieve after his historic double triumph in Athens.

El Guerrouj became the first man since Finnish legend Paavo Nurmi in 1924 to complete the 1500m-5,000m double.

Born: 14 September 1974
Personal best:
1500m - 3:26.00mins (WR)
5,000m - 12:50.24mins
World Athletics medals:
2003 - 1500m gold, 5,000m silver
2001 - 1500m gold
1999 - 1500m gold
1997 - 1500m gold
1995 - 1500m silver

Olympic medals:
2004 - 1500m gold, 5,000m gold
2000 Olympics - 1500m silver
World Indoor medals:
1995 - 1500m gold
1997 - 1500m gold
2001 - 3,000m gold

But it did not come easily as he was forced to out-sprint world record holder Kenenisa Bekele in the final few metres of the 5,000m just days after fending off Bernard Lagat to claim the 1500m title.

El Guerrouj’s Greek triumphs made amends for his disastrous previous Olympic campaigns.

At the 1996 Games in Atlanta he tripped on the final lap of the 1500m final to finish last.

Four years later in Sydney, a poor tactical race saw him surrender the gold to Kenya’s Noah Ngeny and break down in tears on the track.

El Guerrouj’s dominance of the 1500m saw him notch up four consecutive world titles in 1997, 1999, 2001 and 2003.

His world record time of three minutes 26 seconds, which he set eight years ago in Rome, still stands.

The Moroccan also holds the mile record (3:43.13) as well as the 2,000m, indoor 1500m and mile marks.

Away from the track, El Guerrouj is a representative for the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), Unicef and the International Olympic Committee.

Actually ElG is a lovely guy, full of mischief, loves a laugh and pretty reckless for such a hot property. In Rome a day before he set the world 1500 record of 3min 26:00sec we went to a track for him to do some tempo, but the stadium was locked. So he climbed over this 12ft spiked iron gate to do his running. I was absolutely dismayed. Then another time when a friend and I visited him in Rabat in 99 he liked the look of my pal, who was pretty massive, shaved head and wore a bandana. So we’re out on the lawn between the mosque and the front of the Moroccan institute of athletics and suddenly he leaps onto my friend and starts wrestling him. El G says he looks like a guy from pro wrestling, so thought he’d have a go. Totally nuts but so down to earth. And what a talent. This sport will miss him. Well played Mr Bean.