Silham Hilali (MAR) - 2003 World Youth champion at 3000m (Mohammed Benchrif) © Copyright
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Hilali and Mandour lead Moroccan team for Grosseto

Rabat, MoroccoThe Moroccan junior athletes who will compete at the IAAF World Junior Championships in Grosseto, Italy from 13 to 18 July are expected to be very successful.

The young Moroccans are understandably impatient to compete in the World Championships and yet they know they still need to acquire a lot of international experience. They are currently training hard with one sole goal: that of performing at their best and reaching the highest step of the podium.

There are those who already know they will make the trip to Italy and those who, on the other hand, are still struggling to reach the qualifying standards.

What unites the young Moroccan athletes is certainly their prestigious national experience in the previous editions of the IAAF World Junior Championships.

In the last edition of Kingston 2002, Morocco’s middle distance runner Yassine Bensghir was awarded the 1500m gold medal following a 3:40.72 personal best performance. Bensghir followed on the great 1500m tradition of Morocco’s athletes which started in Annecy 1998 when Adil El Kaouch became the first ever World Junior champion for his country.

In Grosseto, Yassine Mandour will be Morocco’s biggest chance for success. Mandour was an excellent fourth in the 3000m at the IAAF World Youth Championships in Debrecen 2001 and was part of the Moroccan squad who was fourth in the junior team race at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships (he was 19th individually).

Among the women’s, Siham Hilali who is only 17 years of age will be aiming at becoming the first ever Moroccan woman to win a World Junior gold medal in Grosseto.

Hilali has already proven she is a great competitor when she became the first 2003 IAAF World Youth champion in Sherbrooke, Canada where she won the 3000m.

2002 World Junior silver medallist at 3000m, Meryem Aaoui Selsouli will also be aiming at winning gold in Grosseto. Already a gold medallist at the University Games Cross Country Championships, Selsouli clearly knows what it takes to become a champion.

“Our mission in Grosseto will not be easy as we follow up on a great Moroccan tradition. Our responsibility is to perform at least as well as our great predecessors did.”

The 19-year-old main ambition in Grosseto, besides winning the race, will be that of meeting the Athens Olympics qualifying standards.

Other Moroccan leading contestants in Grosseto will be Latifa Ezziraoui, African Junior Triple Jump champion, Mohamed Boufaloussene and Mohamed Moustaoui, 3000m and 1500m specialists according to Abdelaziz Saher, former African 3000m Steeplechase champion.

Abdelaziz Saher, husband of former World champion Nezha Bidouane, declared: “We have very good young athletes who are quickly progressing and will soon be able to defend our national colours internationally in the senior as well as in the junior competitions.”

According to Saher, Boufaloussene, a two-time Moroccan youth champion at 3000m and fifth in Sherbrooke 2001, and Moustaoui, who has been pinpointed as El Guerrouj’s successor, have the potential to win gold this summer in Grosseto.

Morocco won a total of eleven medals in the history of the IAAF World Junior Championships including 2 gold, 2 silver and 7 bronze. Arguably the most famous Moroccan athlete of all-time Hicham El Guerrouj won a bronze medal in the 5000m at the 1992 IAAF World Junior Championships in Seoul where he was defeated by a certain Haile Gebrselassie.

 

Mohamed Benchrif for the IAAF