Morceli's power threatens to sweep board

Mike Rowbottom on the aftermath of Wednesday's world 1500 metres record by Algeria's all-distance phenomenon
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The Independent Online
The world 100 metres record and the world's fastest marathon time appear beyond Noureddine Morceli in the immediate future. But following the Algerian's stunning world 1500m record in Nice on Wednesday night, the whole range of middle to long distance events - everything from 800 to 10,000m - is now liable to be reshaped by one man.

Only minutes after lowering his own three-year-old mark from 3min 28.86sec to 3:27.37 with one of the finest displays of front-running ever seen, Morceli was already looking ahead to the meeting on 25 July at Monte Carlo where he set a 3,000m world record last year.

"If the conditions are right I can run faster than I did tonight," he said. "I can run 3:26 or 3:27. I know the track there very well, it is a very good track and I will try and beat this record again."

He added that he was thinking of attacking one of the oldest records in the book - Sebastian Coe's 14-year-old 800m record of 1:41.73 - as well as making future attempts on the 5,000 and 10,000m marks.

Of Wednesday's race Morceli said: "I'm really happy with the time, but the even greater motivation for me is to reach 3:26. I think I could have achieved that if I had had someone running with me in the last lap."

Morceli, who also set a world 2,000m record in Paris on 3 July, evoked memories of one of track and field's greatest nights with his performance in Nice. Ten years ago this week Steve Cram set a then world 1500m record of 3:29.67 in the same stadium, beating Said Aouita by half-a-stride in the first sub-3:30 race.

Cram was in Nice to see Morceli's run on Wednesday and if Morceli does lower his 1500m record again in Monte Carlo, it will be the quickest trio of new world marks by one man since Cram set three world records in 19 days in 1985. Morceli would complete his set in 22 days.

"It was an awesome display," Cram said. "And if he says he could run 3:26 if someone was pushing him that is fine. Except there is no one around who can run that sort of time with him. If you think he would have beaten me by about 20 metres on my world record, you know you are dealing with an exceptional talent. I know what it takes to run fast times and he makes it look so easy. He's got to be the best middle and long distance athlete that the world has ever seen."

Morceli's success was very much a family affair. His elder brother, Abderahmane, organises his training and his younger brother, Ali, set the early pace. Ali, 21, took the field through the first 600 metres, after an opening lap of 54.89sec, while his brother waited until 550 metres from home to make his move. He hit the bell in 2:34 and completed the last lap in splendid isolation in 53.4sec.

His world record was the first set at the Nikaia meeting since 1989 - but only just. An hour previously, Venuste Niyongabo, of Burundi, narrowly failed to break Morceli's 10-day-old 2,000m record when he ran 4:48.69, just 0.81sec outside his target. At 21, four years younger than Morceli, Niyongabo is tipped as his eventual successor. But that task is getting increasingly immense.