Said Aouita (born November 2, 1959) is a former Moroccan athlete, winner of 5000 meters at the 1984 Summer Olympics, 5000 meters at the 1987 World Championships in Athletics, 3000 meters at the 1989 IAAF World Indoor Championships, and former world record holder at 1500m (3.29:45), 2000m (4.50:80), 3000m (7.29:46), and twice at 5000m [(13.00:40) and (12.58:58)]. Said Aouita was the first Arab sports man who became known all over the world. He remains a track and field legend.
Final of 1,500m WC in Helsinki 1983
Cram won in 3'41.59, Scot (3'41.87) Aouita (3'42.2)
Said Aouita dominated middle distance running in the 1980s at all distances between 800m and 5000m. He raced often and he ran fast, and his name monopolised the all-time lists at many of these distances. His first major international competition was the 1983 World Championships held in Helsinki where he contested the 1500m. Although lacking in relative experience, Aouita came to Helsinki with the fastest time of the year, having run 3min 32.54sec at Firenze two months earlier. At Helsinki, the pace dawdled for the first 1000m, tactics that did not suit Aouita, and he was outkicked by the sprinters, finishing third and learning a valuable lesson.
1984 Summer Olympics
Foto: Steve Powell/Getty Images Sport/Flash Media
1984 Summer Olympics
Aouita improved his times significantly in the early part of the 1984 season, moving to third on the all-time 1500m list and second on the 5000m list. This left him with a dilemma as to what event to enter at the Olympic Games in Los Angeles later that year, but he decided in the end to contest the longer race. The 5000m at Los Angeles was run at a very fast pace set by Antonio Leitao (Portugal), which suited Aouita much better than the tactics used in Helsinki. He stayed behind Leitao and then sprinted past him on the last lap to win in 13min 05.59sec, the third-fastest 5000m ever run. Aouita had come very close to breaking a number of World Records in 1984, and the following year he finally broke through. At the Bislett Games in Oslo on 27 July, he took just 1/100 of a second off the 5000m World Record held by David Moorcroft (Great Britain) clocking 13min 00.40sec. At Berlin on 23 August, he recorded a time 3min 29.46sec for 1500m, breaking the World Record that Steve Cram (Great Britain) had set only five weeks earlier.
Said Aouita sought new challenges for himself in the Olympic year of 1988. Instead of staying within the comparative security of 5000m competition, the distance at which he was the reigning Olympic and World champion, he decided to concentrate his efforts on the shorter distances. At Nice on 17 July, he won the 1500m by over 10 seconds in 3min 32.69sec, the third fastest time of the season. At the Weltklasse meet in Zurich on 17 August, he beat a much stronger field over one mile in 3min 50.82sec. He also set the season's quickest 1000m time of 2min 15.16sec, but it was in the 800m that he made his biggest impact. He had four big race wins over 800m prior to the Olympic Games, which included the lowering of his personal best set in 1983 twice, clocking 1min 44.36sec at Brussels on 19 August, and 1min 43.86sec at Cologne two days later. Even with this fine form, many pundits were surprised that he attempted the 800m/1500m double at the Olympic Games at Seoul in September, rather than just confine himself to the 1500m, at which he was the world record holder. At Seoul, Aouita easily won his heat and semi-final in the 800m, but had his left leg heavily bandaged to protect a recently sprained hamstring. In the final on 26 September, a very fast pace was set to try to nullify Aouita's fast finish. Aouita ran according to his race plan, but in the end he was outkicked by the 800m specialists and finished third in a time of 1min 44.06sec. His bronze medal made him the only man in Olympic history to win medals at both the 800m and 5000m. However, the race had aggravated his hamstring injury, and although he qualified for the semi-finals of the 1500m, he withdrew before they started. (Ron Casey)
(Ron Casey at sporting-heroes.net)
Said Aouita was born in Kenitra, a coastal Moroccan city. Nine years later, he moved along with his family to Fes due to the nature of his father's work. As a child he spent most of his time playing football and wanted to be a great footballer; however, his outstanding skills in running made his coaches foresee a great future in track and field.
Aouita was a versatile middle and long distance runner, excelling at distances between 800 and 10000 meters during the eighties. He raced and won against the Olympic champions Joaquim Cruz (800m), Peter Rono (1500m), John Ngugi (5000m) and Alberto Cova (10000m) over their respective main distances. Between September 1983 and September 1990 he won 115 of his 119 races. The defeats were against world champion Steve Cram over 1500m, Olympic bronze medalist Alessandro Lambruschini over 3000m steeplechase, Olympic champions Joaquim Cruz and Paul Ereng over 800m and world champion Yobes Ondieki over 5000m.
National technical director for Moroccan athletics
Said Aouita is currently a resident of Qatar. Working as a sports analyst with Al Jazeera, Aouita has followed sports in Qatar from up close and feels it’s the vision of the authorities that has made Qatar the sporting hub in the world.
“This country is developing not just every day but by every second. HH The Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani has a great vision about how Qatar’s future should be and the changes you see are a result of that,” said Aouita
Aoutia pointed out that most countries in the Middle East are following Morocco’s strategy.
“Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and others are following the strategy of having academies. This is giving them results as well. But to stand out from the crowd, you need to keep working and cannot stick to one strategy for long. For football in this country we have proper planning and result is there to see. Athletics, yes, we need to draw new guidelines. The talent, the facilities are here; you need to draw an objective for the athlete and then a proper strategy to make sure he reaches the goal,” says Aouita.
(N.D. Prashant at gulf-times.com)
1. Aouita had his first start towards stardom at the 1983 World Championships in Athletics held in Helsinki. He contested the 1500m and finished third in the final after the pace slowed in the last 1000 meters and then finished with a sprint.
2. In 1984, Aouita decided to run the 5000m at the 1984 Summer Olympics. Antonio Leitão from Portugal ran in first for the majority of the race. Aouita stayed behind Leitão and then sprinted past him on the last lap to win.
3. 1985 was a record-breaking year for Aouita. He ran two world records: first in 5000m (13:00.40) in Oslo on the 27th of July, then in 1500m (3:29.46) on the 23rd of August.
4. In 1986 he missed setting the world record in the 3000m by .44 of a second.
5. In 1987, Aouita's main objective was to excel in the world championship held in Rome and break records. First, he broke the 2000m world record with a time of 4:50.81 in Paris and only six days later, he surprised the world by breaking his own world record for 5000m, becoming the first man to go under 13 minutes, with a time of 12:58.39. For the 1987 World Championships in Athletics, Aouita decided just to contest the 5000m. In the 5000m final, John Ngugi from Kenya set a fair pace, but by no means fast. Aouita, always in control of the race, made his move just before the bell, leading a mass sprint for the finish that he won in 13:26.44.
6. In 1988, at the 1988 Summer Olympics, he attempted to race in the 800m and 1500m but had a hamstring injury which made him finish third in 800m and withdraw from the 1500m although he had qualified for the semi-final. In spite of that his bronze medal made him the only athlete in history to combine medals at both 800m and 5000m.
7. In 1989, Aouita won the 3000m at the 1989 IAAF World Indoor Championships in Budapest. Alter that year, he broke the world record for the same distance in Köln, Germany with the time of 7:29.45 and thus, he was the first man in history to go under 7:30:00.
In the early nineties, Aouita underwent surgery on his leg, after which his doctors advised him to put an end to his career as an athlete for his health. After a set of failures in a number of races he decided to quit athletics.
After his athletics career ended, Aouita worked with mixed success as a consultant for numerous sport institutions, as Technical National Manager in Morocco, and National Distance Coach in Australia thanks not only to his fruitful field experience, but also to his academic competences. Now, Aouita is working as Senior Analyst for Al Jazeera Sports Channel. Aouita also has a sports clothing company which was established in 2009.
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