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Ali EZZINE, Morocco (3000m Steeplechase)
Born 3 September 1978, Ain Taouajtat (suburb of Meknes)
Although his countryman Brahim Boulami is the former 3000m steeplechase world record holder, Ali Ezzine is the Moroccan athlete having won the most awards over that distance.
Ezzine began his running career in 1995, in is his native village of Ain Taouajtat (in the suburbs of Meknes). He finished 6th in the Moroccan School Championships that year, in the under-17 category. His talent was noticed by his sports teacher and by the Sports Club of Meknes (CODM), which he joined at that time.
A year later, he was recruited by the National School of Athletics of Bellevue in Rabat. As his parents were determined that he concentrate on his studies, it took a lot of persuasion before he was allowed to join the school.
Ezzine qualified for the 1996 IAAF World Junior Championships in Sydney, where he won the first of several major championships bronze medals in the steeple. From then on, he became a force to recon with in the event and a threat to the all-dominating Kenyans.
In 1997, Abdelkader Kada, coach to Hicham El Guerrouj and Salah Hissou, took Ezzine under his wing, and the young man won the Moroccan national junior cross country championship and placed 11th in the World Cross in Turin. On the track, the 18-year-old finished second to the Saudi Arabian Saad Cheddad Asmari in the steeplechase at the Pan-Arab Games in Beirut. Ezzine went on to beat the national junior record in the 5000m (13.32.56) in Lisbon in his first and only attempt at the distance to date. And in the steeplechase at the prestigious Zurich Grand Prix, he followed the world record performance of Kenya’s Wilson Boit Kipketer (7:59.08) to set another national junior record in 8:23.18.
The following year Ezzine was part of the Moroccan cross country team that finished runner-up to Kenya in the 4 km team competition at the World Cross in Marrakech (12th in the individual race).
In 1999, he needed an operation on his knee ligaments and was quoted as saying that without the support of his national federation, his career might have come to a halt. A few months after his operation, Ezzine was back in action stronger than ever. He started by shattering the Moroccan national record in Paris (8:07.31), before picking up a bronze medal in the Seville World Championships (8:12.73) and then going on to beat the Kenyans at the Berlin Grand Prix, establishing what many came to call the “non-Kenyan world record,” 8:06.70.
In 2000, he lowered his PB (and the non-Kenyan best) to 8:03.57 winning the Gaz de France meeting in Paris, before picking up another bronze medal in the Sydney Olympics (8:22.15). The following year he improved his global medal position to silver in the Edmonton World Championships (8:16.21), ahead of two members of the Kenyan armada.
Ezzine slipped to 10th (8:19.15) in last year’s Paris World Championships, but going into the 2004 Olympics, his season’s best 8:12.93 (Stockholm GP), the top mark of any non-Kenyan in the field, made him the likeliest bet to break up a Kenyan sweep of the medals. As it turned out, however, the Kenyans did sweep, and Ezzine finished a disappointed 8th (8:15.58). Ten days later in Brussels, in spite of the return of his countryman Boulami after a two-year doping suspension, Ezzine ran an uninspired 8:16.63 for 11th, a full 23 seconds behind the new world record of Saif Saeed Shaheen (Stephen Cherono). Boulami is clearly motivated; he ran 8:02.66 for 3rd in Brussels. But can Ezzine reignite his engine for one more late-season race?
Championship record, steeplechase:
8th, Olympic Games, Athens, 2004
10th, IAAF World Championships, Paris, 2003
Silver Medal, IAAF World Championships, Edmonton, 2001
Bronze Medal, Olympic Games, Sydney, 2000
Bronze Medal, IAAF World Championships, Seville, 1999
Bronze Medal, Pan-Arab Games, Beirut, 1997
Bronze medal, IAAF World Junior Championships, Sydney, 1996
Championship record, cross country:
Bronze Medal 4km team race, (13th indiv) World Cross, Vilamoura, 2000
Silver Medal, 4km team race, (12th indiv) World Cross, Marrakech, 1998
Bronze Medal, Junior team race, (11th indiv) World Cross, Turin,1997
Prepared by Mohamed Benchrif for the IAAF “Focus on Africans” project. © IAAF 2004.