Hicham El Guerrouj began his domination of the 1,500m in 1995. He won the world championship in 1997, 1999, 2001 and 2003. He set world records in the 1,500m and the mile both indoors and outdoors. Over a nine-year period, El Guerrouj raced in 86 finals at 1,500m and the mile and won 83 of those races.
Unfortunately, two of his three losses were in the Olympics. In 1996, with 430m to go, El Guerrouj was positioned just behind the favourite, Noureddine Morceli. El Guerrouj's knee hit Morceli's heel. Morceli stumbled and El Guerrouj stepped on his heel, lost his balance and crashed to the ground. He finished the race, but ended up in last place.
Between the Atlanta Olympics and the Sydney Olympics in 2000, El Guerrouj won 45 of 46 races at 1,500m and a mile. In the Sydney final, he faced his former pacesetter, Noah Ngeny of Kenya. El Guerrouj took the lead after 900m and stayed ahead until the homestretch. Ngeny caught up with El Guerrouj 50 metres from the finish and pulled ahead with 25 metres to go, as El Guerrouj had to settle for second place. Stunned, but undeterred, El Guerrouj put together another winning streak, this time for 32 finals.
But in the pre-Olympic season in 2004, he was beaten twice. In the final at the Athens Games, El Guerrouj was challenged by Kenya's Bernard Lagat. El Guerrouj took the lead early and actually accelerated during the last lap. Lagat stayed with him and edged ahead with 40 metres to go. El Guerrouj regained the crucial centimetres, and the two ran stride for stride until El Guerrouj pulled ahead just as they reached the finish line. El Guerrouj had finally achieved his goal of winning an Olympic gold medal… but he was not finished. Four nights later he raced in the final of the 5,000m. This time he faced Ethiopia's Kenenisa Bekele, who had already won the 10,000m. Boxed on the final lap, El Guerrouj slipped outside with 200m to go and set out after Bekele, who had just taken the lead. He caught Bekele 60 metres from the finish and then flew past to win his second gold medal in five days. El Guerrouj was the first runner to achieve the 1,500/5,000 double since Paavo Nurmi in 1924.