Anything you can do: El Guerrouj gets in on act

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The Independent Online

In his apartment high in the Atlas Mountains, Hicham El Guerrouj has a fading film reel of Paavo Nurmi racing to victory in the 1500m and 5,000m in the Paris Olympics of 1924. After his latest home straight heroics in the Olympic Stadium last night, he now has video footage of his own golden double to place alongside that of the greatest of all the flying Finns.

In his apartment high in the Atlas Mountains, Hicham El Guerrouj has a fading film reel of Paavo Nurmi racing to victory in the 1500m and 5,000m in the Paris Olympics of 1924. After his latest home straight heroics in the Olympic Stadium last night, he now has video footage of his own golden double to place alongside that of the greatest of all the flying Finns.

In the race of the champions on the track in the 2004 Games, it was the Moroccan king of the middle distances who prevailed against the long-distance prince from Ethiopia. Meeting on middle ground in the 5,000m final, El Guerrouj, winner of the Olympic 1500m final last Tuesday night, produced a winning kick off the final bend to beat Kenenisa Bekele, the winner of the 10,000m final eight days previously.

For the record, El Guerrouj clocked 13min 14.39sec, Bekele 13:14.59 and the Kenyan world champion Eliud Kipchoge 13:15.10 in third place. It was all about the race, though. And that was worthy of such supreme champions. "This is an historic victory," El Guerrouj said. "I want to dedicate it to the Moroccan people and the Arab and Muslim world."

In the space of four days, the 29-year-old has succeeded in applying the crowning glory to a career in which he has rewritten the world-record books at 1500m, the mile and 2,000m. After falling at the bell in the 1996 final in Atlanta and losing a dramatic sprint finish with the Kenyan Noah Ngeny in 2000 final in Sydney, he finally claimed his personal holy grail, the Olympic 1500m title, after an even more gripping battle with Bernard Lagat, another Kenyan, last Tuesday night.

Elsewhere, on the track and in the field on the concluding night of competition in the Olympic Stadium, after four years of flattering to deceive and failing to fulfil his rich promise, Yuri Borzakovskiy finally came good in the last 100m of the men's 800m final. The 23-year-old Russian surged to the front on the outside, winning in 1min 44.45sec ahead of Mbulaeni Mulaudzi and Wilson Kipketer.

Sadly, there was to be no golden farewell for Steve Backley in the javelin - or silver or bronze farewell either. At 35, the Kent man bowed out heroically, though, taking fourth place with 48.13m - just 0.71m shy of what would have been a fourth successive Olympic medal.

The British 4 x 400m relay men came close to the podium, too. Matt Elias was in bronze medal position on the final leg until Clinton Hill of Australia and Enefiok Udo Obong of Nigeria overtook the tiring Welshman in the last few desperate strides to the line. Nevertheless, fifth place in a race won comfortably by the United States was a highly creditable performance by Elias, the inspired Malachi Davis, Sean Baldock and Tim Benjamin.

The British women's 4 x 400m team were never seriously in the hunt for a medal in their final, but Donna Fraser, Catherine Murphy, Christine Ohuruogu and Lee McConnell also performed with distinction, taking fourth place behind the United States, Russia and Jamaica.

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