Guerrouj fails to shine in Rome

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The Independent Online

Hicham El Guerrouj's plan to make a proper start to his Olympic season last night on the track where he set his world records at 1500m and the mile finished in disarray as he could place only eighth in the Golden Gala 1500m in Rome.

Hicham El Guerrouj's plan to make a proper start to his Olympic season last night on the track where he set his world records at 1500m and the mile finished in disarray as he could place only eighth in the Golden Gala 1500m in Rome.

Britain's Commonwealth champion, Michael East, was one place ahead of him, knocking more than three seconds off his personal best in 3 minutes 32.37 seconds.

The world champion had announced that his season proper would begin in the Olympic Stadium, dismissing his first race of the season - a 3min 36.46sec clocking in Zaragoza on 8 June - as a blip which had come just three days after the birth of his daughter.

But the Moroccan was well beaten last night in a race where the winner, his former training partner Ramzi Rashid, clocked the fastest time in the word this year, 3:30.25. It was the first defeat for El Guerrouj over 1500m since the last Olympic final, ending a run of 29 successive victories.

While El Guerrouj will have felt deflated, East - who is hoping to double up over 800 and 1500m at next weekend's Olympic trials in Manchester - could celebrate the fact that he now has a time commensurate with his talent in the metric mile.

Darren Campbell continues to move through the gears in his usual early-season fashion. He ran his fastest 100 metres time of the year, clocking 10.21sec in a race won by Aziz Zakari of Ghana in 10.10.

Campbell flew straight to Rome to prepare for the race after finishing third in Zagreb on Tuesday night and then winning over his speciality 200m only ranked him fifth, as the two athletes ahead of him - world champion Kim Collins and Deji Aliu - although given the same time, were adjudged to have placed ahead of him in a blanket finish.

Campbell followed up his earlier performance by taking sixth place in the 200 metres in a season's best of 20.59sec in a race won by Stephane Buckland in 20.20sec.

Later in the evening, Chris Rawlinson finished third in the 400 metres hurdles in 48.86sec in a race won by the world champion, Felix Sanchez of the Dominican Republic, in a season's best of 48.43sec.

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