Aouita can make a solid claim to being the best middle distance runner ever. Until Geb's 1995 5000 at Zurich, Aouita's WR in the 3000 was the best race I'd ever seen.
Saïd Aouita (Arabic: سعيد عويطة) (born November 2, 1959) is a former Moroccan athlete, winner of 5000 meters at the 1984 Summer Olympics.
Born in Kenitra, Morocco, Saïd Aouita dominated middle distance running in the 1980s at all distances between 800 meters and 5000 meters. He is the only man in history to run 800 m sub 1:44, 1500 m sub 3:30, 3000 m sub 7:30 and 5000 m sub 13:00. He raced and won against the Olympic champions Joaquim Cruz, Peter Rono, John Ngugi and Alberto Cova over their respective main distances. Between September 1983 and September 1990 he won 115 of his 119 races. The defeats were against world champion Steve Cram over 1500 m, Olympic bronze medalist Alessandro Lambruschini over 3000 m steeplechase, Olympic champions Joaquin Cruz and Paul Ereng over 800 m and world champion Yobes Ondieki over 5000 m.
Aouita's first major international competition was the 1983 World Championships held in Helsinki where he contested the 1500 m. In the final, the pace dawdled for the first 1000 m, tactics that did not suit Aouita, and he was outkicked by the kickers, finishing third. After this experience, Aouita decided to run 5000 m at the Los Angeles Olympics. The 5000 m final was run at a very fast pace set by Antonio Leitão from Portugal, which suited Aouita much better than the tactics used in Helsinki. He stayed behind Leitão and then sprinted past him on the last lap to win.
In the next season, Aouita ran two world records: at first in 5000 m (13:00.40) and then in 1500 m (3:29.46). Aouita's 1500 m world record was remarkable for its slow start. Aouita passed the first 400 m in a mediocre time of 57.0 seconds, at 800 m he was still just under 1:54 min before he accelerated dramatically. These outstanding achievements were preceded by Aouita's most bitter defeat. In a 1500 m race in Nizza Steve Cram became the first man to run under 3:30 minutes. Aouita sprinted the final 100 m of that race in 11.8 s and nearly caught Cram, but his dream of being the first man under the magic barrier was destroyed. In 1986, Aouita was the overall winner of the IAAF Grand Prix series. In 1987, Aouita broke Steve Cram's 2000 m world record with a time of 4:50.81. Only six days later, he broke his own world record for 5000 m, and in the process became the first man to break 13 minutes, finishing in 12:58.39.
For the World Championships held later that year, Aouita had provisionally entered the 800 m, 1500 m, 5000 m and 10 000 m (probably to keep his opponents guessing), but eventually decided just to contest the 5000 m. In the 5000 m final, John Ngugi from Kenya set a fair pace, but by no means fast. Aouita, always in control of the race, made his move just before the bell, leading a mass sprint for the finish that he won in 13:26.44.
Aouita sought new challenges for himself in the Olympic year of 1988. Instead of staying within the comparative security of 5000 m competition, the distance at which he was the reigning Olympic and World champion, he decided to concentrate his efforts on the shorter distances. At the Seoul Olympics he attempted to try the 800 m/1500 m double. Aouita easily won his heat and semi-final in the 800 m, but had his left leg heavily bandaged to protect a recently sprained hamstring. In the 800 m final, a very fast pace was set to try to nullify Aouita's fast finish. Aouita ran according to his race plan, but in the end he was outkicked by the 800 m specialists and finished third. His bronze medal made him the only man in Olympic history to win medals at both the 800 m and 5000 m. However, the race had aggravated his hamstring injury, and although he qualified for the semi-finals of the 1500 m, he withdrew before they started.
In the next year, Aouita won the World Indoor Championships in 3000 m. Later, he ran his last world record, breaking Henry Rono's record in 3000 m by the time of 7:29.45. Aouita did not compete in the 1990 outdoor season, and when he returned to competition, was unable to recapture the dominance he had imposed during the 1980s. His appearance at the World Championships, in 1991 at Tokyo, was a barely noticed eleventh in the 1500 m. A few days after the 1991 World Championships he won a race in Cologne where he defeated most of the 1500 m elite except the world champion Noureddine Morceli who was absent.
1992 started very promisingly for Aouita as he set a new world indoor record over 3000 m in Athens. However, the IAAF refused to ratify the record for formal reasons. In May Aouita won the Mile at the New York Games and a 1000 m race in Jena. However, due to injury problems he did not participate in the Olympic Games in Barcelona. Further comeback attempts in 1993 and 1995 failed.
After his athletics career ended Aouita worked with mixed success as a national distance coach in Morocco and Australia.