When in Rome, Hicham El Guerrouj breaks records.
One year after setting the world record for 1,500 meters in Olympic Stadium, El Guerrouj destroyed the world mile record in a race in which the second-place finisher also beat the old mark.
"Rome is a magic track for me," El Guerrouj said after wowing the enthusiastic crowd with a time of 3 minutes 43.13 seconds in the Golden Gala meet.
In becoming the first Moroccan to hold one of track's most hallowed records, El Guerrouj shaved 1.26 seconds off the mark of 3:44.39 set by Noureddine Morceli of Algeria on Sept. 5, 1993, in Rieti, Italy.
Kenya's Noah Ngeny challenged El Guerrouj down the stretch and finished in 3:43.40, nearly a second faster than Morceli's previous record.
The race marked only the third time in 18 years the record has been broken. Both of El Guerrouj's records came at the expense of Morceli. His 1,500 record of 3:26.00 was set last July 14.
El Guerrouj ran a victory lap, waving a Moroccan flag to the cheering fans. He dedicated the race to his family and to Morocco's King Hassan.
Britain's Sebastian Coe reduced the record to 3:47.33 in 1981, a mark that stood until 1985, when another Briton, Steve Cram, lowered it to 3:46.32. Cram's time held for eight years until Morceli clipped nearly two seconds off it.
El Guerrouj, 24, has been almost unbeatable the past four years. In 1996, he won 12 of 13 races at a mile or 1,500 meters, losing only in the Olympic 1,500 final when he fell just before the bell lap and Morceli went on to win the gold medal. Later that season, he ended Morceli's four-year winning streak at 1,500 meters, winning the IAAF Grand Prix final.
El Guerrouj won 14 of 15 races in 1997, losing only at the mile in the Grand Prix final. Last year, he won all 12 of his races, including one at 2,000 meters, and just missed world records in the mile with 3:44.60 and 2,000 meters with 4:48.36. He is undefeated this year.
El Guerrouj won the 1997 world outdoor 1,500 championship and the 1995 and 1997 world indoor 1,500 titles.
After his sensational record run, he suggested he could lower the 1,500 record to 3:24 and run the mile in 3:41 or 3:42.
Meanwhile, Marion Jones extended her four-year unbeaten streak in the women's 200 meters, world record holder Maurice Greene set a meet record in the men's 100 and Michael Johnson beat a powerful field in the men's 200.
Jones, undefeated in the 100, 200 and 400 this year, easily won the 200 in 22.18.
"I'm happy," Jones said. "The time is not important. In competitions like this, winning is all that counts."
Greene, the 1997 world champion, won in 9.85, only .06 seconds off the world record of 9.79 he set last month. He beat Dennis Mitchell (10.03) and Bruny Surin (10.04), and praised the crowd.
"That's what makes me run fast," Greene said.
Johnson, recently bothered by a quadriceps injury and competing in his first 200 in six weeks, beat Obadele Thompson of Barbados and Ato Boldon of Trinidad & Tobago, in a meet record 19.93.
It was a bitter defeat for Boldon, who ran a season-best 19.86 at Athens last month and had been faster than Johnson this season. Boldon was timed in 20.14, behind Thompson's 20.12.
"I'm just glad I'm healthy again," said Johnson, who ran a season-best 43.92 in the 400 at Lausanne, Switzerland, last week.
"My focus this year is on the 400, and the 200 helps me get there."
Other winners included Lake Braddock's Allen Johnson in the men's 110-meter hurdles, Kenyan-born Wilson Kipketer of Denmark in the men's 800, Erick Walder in the men's long jump, Anthony Washington in the men's discus, Svetlana Masterkova in the women's 800, Gabriela Szabo of Romania in the women's 3,000, Daniel Komen of Kenya in the men's 3,000 and Maxim Tarasov of Russia in the men's pole vault.
Johnson, the Olympic and two-time world champion, beat American teammates Mark Crear and Larry Wade in 13.01, the season's second-fastest time.
Kipketer of Denmark, the 1997 world champion, set a season best of 1:42.79. He sprinted to victory in the final 200 meters.
Mile world record since Roger Bannister broke the four-minute
barrier in 1954:
May 6, 1954
Roger Bannister, Britain,
3 minutes 59.4 seconds.
June 21, 1954
John Landy, New Zealand, 3:58.0
July 19, 1957
Derek Ibbotson, Britain, 3:57.2
Aug. 6, 1958
Herb Elliott, Australia, 3:54.5
Jan. 27, 1962
Peter Snell, New Zealand, 3:54.4
Nov. 17, 1964
Peter Snell, New Zealand, 3:54.1
June 9, 1965
Michel Jazy, France, 3:53.6
July 17, 1966
Jim Ryun, United States, 3:51.3
June 23, 1967
Jim Ryun, United States, 3:51.1
May 17, 1975
Filbert Bayi, Tanzania, 3:51.0
Aug. 12, 1975
John Walker, New Zealand, 3:49.4
July 17, 1979
Sebastian Coe, Britain, 3:49.0
July 19, 1980
Steve Ovett, Britain, 3:48.8
Aug. 19, 1981
Sebastian Coe, Britain, 3:48.53
Aug. 26, 1981
Steve Ovett, Britain, 3:48.40
Aug. 28, 1981
Sebastian Coe, Britain, 3:47.33
July 27, 1985
Steve Cram, Britain, 3:46.32
Sept. 5, 1993
Noureddine Morceli, Algeria, 3:44.39
July 7, 1999
Hicham El Guerrouj, Morocco, 3:43.13
CAPTION: Hicham El Guerrouj celebrates his world record at Rome's Olympic Stadium.