I chose the photo above for two reasons – first, it was El Guerrouj’s breakthrough in the Olympics, and second, I love the Rui Silva photobomb in the background.
Hicham El Guerrouj is the fastest miler of all-time. He ran 3:43:13 in 1999 and nobody has run faster since. He also holds the world record in 1500m, as he ran 3:26:00 in 1998.
Despite being the fastest 1500m runner of all-time, El Guerrouj could not get it done in Olympic competition. In 1996, in the 1500m, he fell with a lap to go and finished last. In 2000, he was beat by a very fast Kenyan named Noah Ngeny and had to settle for silver. 2004 was realistically his last chance and he made it count. El Guerrouj held off Bernard Lagat down the home stretch in one of the most exciting finishes you will see.
Four days later, he held off Kenenisa Bekele in the 5000m and took home his second gold. He was the first person to double with the 1500m and 5000m in Olympic competition since Paavo Nurmi in 1924.
El Guerrouj’s spot here is without question, as he is arguably the greatest middle distance runner of all-time.