posted on Aug, 24 2004 @ 05:11 PM
ATHENS, Greece (AP) - Four-time world 1,500 champion Hicham El Guerrouj of Morocco, a heartbreak loser at the last two Olympics, held off Bernard
Lagat down the stretch Tuesday to win in 3 minutes, 34.18 seconds.
El Guerrouj took the lead with 1 1/2 laps to go, then nearly surrendered it to his longtime Kenyan rival before edging Lagat by .12 seconds. El
Guerrouj has lost just four races in the last eight years, but two of those defeats came at the 1996 and 2000 Olympics. He stumbled and fell on the
last lap and finished last at Atlanta, then blew a lead in the final meters at Sydney and later confessed he had been overcome by pre-race stress.
With the gold finally his, he kissed the ground after crossing the finish line. Lagat was the first to congratulate him, and the two hugged while on
their knees. Other runners quickly joined the huddle.
Lagat was the bronze medalist in Sydney. Last year, Kenyan officials withdrew him from the world championships after a positive drug test for the
performance-enhancing substance EPO. He was later cleared by the International Association of Athletics Federations when his B sample tested negative.
Rui Silva of Portugal won the bronze at 3:34.68.