Said Aouita

Said Aouita

Moroccan track and field athlete
Date of Birth: 02.11.1959
Country: Morocco

  1. Biography of Said Aouita
  2. Early Career and Achievements
  3. World Records and Setbacks
  4. Olympic Games and Career Conclusion
  5. Later Career and Life

Biography of Said Aouita

Said Aouita, a Moroccan athlete, was an Olympic champion in the 5000-meter race. He dominated middle-distance athletics in the 1980s, excelling in distances ranging from 800 to 5000 meters. Aouita was the only athlete to break the following time barriers: 800 meters in under 1:44 minutes, 1500 meters in under 3:30 minutes, 3000 meters in under 7:30 minutes, 5000 meters in under 13:00 minutes, and 10,000 meters in under 27:30 minutes. He defeated Olympic champions such as Joaquim Cruz, Peter Rono, John Ngugi, and Alberto Cova on their respective distances. From September 1983 to September 1990, he won 115 out of 119 races in official competitions. He did not defeat the world champion Steve Cram in the 1500 meters, Olympic medalist Alessandro Lambruschini in the 3000-meter steeplechase, Joaquim Cruz and Paul Ereng in the 800 meters, as well as Yobes Ondieki in the 5000 meters.

Early Career and Achievements

Aouita's first major competition was the 1983 World Championships in Helsinki, where he participated in the 1500 meters race. The final race employed a tactic of low pace during the first two-thirds of the distance, which did not suit Aouita's skills, and he finished in third place. However, he was determined to excel in the 5000 meters at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. In the final race, Portuguese runner Antonio Leitao set a high pace suitable for Aouita's strengths. He stayed close to Leitao and overtook him at the finish line.

World Records and Setbacks

In the following season, Aouita set two world records: 5000 meters in 13:00.40 and 1500 meters in 3:29.46. Notably, the record in the latter distance was achieved with a slow start, completing the first 400 meters in a mediocre time of 57.0 seconds. Despite his remarkable achievements, Aouita suffered a devastating loss when Steve Cram became the first man to run the 1500 meters in under 3.5 minutes. Aouita sprinted in pursuit but fell short, narrowly missing victory. In 1986, Aouita won the IAAF Grand Prix series. The following year, he broke Cram's record in the 2000 meters and set his own world record in the 5000 meters, becoming the first person to complete the distance in under 13 minutes (12:58.39).

Olympic Games and Career Conclusion

At the 1987 World Championships in Rome, Aouita was registered to compete in four distances (800, 1500, 5000, and 10,000 meters), most likely to confuse his opponents. However, he ultimately decided to participate solely in the 5000 meters. In the final race, Kenyan runner John Ngugi set a moderate pace. Aouita controlled the race throughout and won with a time of 13:26.44, launching his final sprint shortly before the last lap signal. During the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, Aouita faced a new challenge. Despite being considered a specialist in the 5000 meters and the clear favorite, he decided to focus on shorter distances. Aouita initially qualified for the final race in the 800 meters but had to apply a bandage due to a muscle injury. In the final race, a fast pace was set to neutralize Aouita's strong finish. He followed the plan but was surpassed by specialists in the distance, finishing third. Nevertheless, he became the only athlete with Olympic medals in two significantly different distances (800 and 5000 meters). Unfortunately, Aouita exacerbated his injury and had to withdraw from further participation in the Olympic tournament.

Later Career and Life

In 1989, Aouita won the indoor World Championships in Budapest in the 3000 meters. Later, he broke Henry Rono's 1978 world record in the same distance, but this time outdoors, completing it in 7:29.45. Aouita skipped the 1990 season and struggled to regain his previous level of performance upon returning to competitions. In the 1991 World Championships in Tokyo, he finished eleventh in the 1500 meters. However, a few days later, he won the same distance, defeating all the world leaders in the discipline except for the absent Noureddine Morceli.

In 1992, Aouita started the season promisingly. He set an unofficial world record for indoor track in the 3000 meters, which was not officially registered due to formal reasons. In May of the same year, Aouita won races in the mile and 1000 meters. However, an injury prevented him from participating in the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona. His subsequent attempts to return to elite athletics in 1993 and 1995 proved unsuccessful.

After retiring from competitive athletics, Aouita had varying success as a coach for Moroccan and Australian middle-distance runners. In September 2008, he was appointed as the technical director of the Moroccan Athletics Federation. Aouita is also a sports analyst for the television channel Al Jazeera Sports.