The Summer Olympics: Hicham El Guerrouj

Morocco's hero will gain new admirers once he blows through the field in the metric mile

For 30 million Moroccans, he is the best thing since couscous. "We are a country of Lilliputians," says one of them, Brahim Boulami, a 3,000-m steeplechaser. "Hicham for us is like NASA and Boeing are for the U.S. It is good to be first in the world at something." The Gulliver he is talking about is Hicham El Guerrouj, the man who is first in the world at one of the toughest of all human challenges: running the mile and its Olympic counterpart, the 1,500 m.

The Moroccans' view of their world-record holder over both distances may be suffused with national...

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