El Guerrouj wins Ghent two miles, brushes against world mark
Morocco, Sports, 2/24/2001
Morocco's Hicham El Guerrouj on Friday won the two miles race of the Ghent indoor meeting, marking his comeback on the international scene since his unexpected defeat in the Olympic 1500 final four months ago.
The world indoor champion over 1,500 in both 1995 and 1997 was on course to reduce the year-old best of 8:09.66, held by Ethiopia's Hailu Mekonnen, until the final three laps of the Flanders indoor arena on the outskirts of Ghent. However, El Guerrouj tired over the final 600 meters to finish with 8:09.89.
"But I am still very happy with my comeback, especially as it was my first race since the Olympics. And, you all know what happened at the Olympics," joked El Guerrouj.
"This race was all about confidence, because I didn't have any confidence in my running for a long time. To be honest, the record didn't go because I wasn't ready enough. Until a few weeks ago, I didn't plan to run any indoor races at all. However, the main thing is that I have regained my confidence and I've rediscovered the sensation of racing again. Yes, you can say I'm back," he said.
El Guerrouj was lead through the first five laps by Belgian pacemaker Patrick Grammens before his compatriot and training partner Youssef Baba took over.
Baba lead El Guerrouj through one mile in 4:03.8 but stepped to one side with just over six laps to go and from that point El Guerrouj was on his own. The 3000 split of 7:36.85 indicated that the record might just slip from El Guerrouj's grasp despite being the fastest time of the year over the championship distance at which El Guerrouj confirmed later he will contest at the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Lisbon next month. A distant second, nearly half-a-lap behind was Kenya's Paul Bitok in 8:20.55.
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