Hicham is still king of 1,500m

HICHAM El Guerrouj played air guitar and did a little shuffle. 

“I am still the king of 1,500,'' the Moroccan distance great proclaimed after winning his fourth straight world title in the event. “I've protected my kingdom.'' 

With the victory, which came at the expense of French favorite Mehdi Baala, El Guerrouj confirmed himself as arguably the greatest middle-distance runner of all time, surpassing Algeria's Noureddine Morceli, who won three golds from 1991 to 1995. 

Almost as soon as he crossed the finish line, the 29-year-old Moroccan went into his animated celebration before being mobbed by team officials. Moments later, overcome by the enormity of his achievement, he lay down on the track, pulling the Moroccan flag over him like a shroud. 

Ana Guevara of Mexico poses with her national flag after winning the 400m race.

“It's the most beautiful day in my life,'' he said. “I am proud. My country is proud. My family is proud.'' 

El Guerrouj, who had to cope with 60,000 partisan fans cheering for Baala, won in 3:31.77. 

Baala, the European champion, clocked 3:32.31 to give the host nation its second silver of the championships. Ivan Heshko of Ukraine took bronze in 3:33.17. 

He's attempting an unique 1,500-5,000 double – something that has not been achieved at a major championship since Finland's Paavo Nurmi at the 1924 Paris Olympics.  

“Tomorrow will be a big day,'' El Guerrouj said. 

The 5,000 could be a more difficult affair, especially if Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia, the 10,000 champion, decides to go for his own double. 

Another favourite to live up to the hype was Ana Guevara of Mexico, who captured the gold in the women's 400 with just as much poise. 

The Mexican stretched her winning streak to 20 races. She hasn't been beaten since she won the bronze medal two years ago in Edmonton. 

“It is a privilege to be the No. 1 in the world,'' Guevara said. “It is a big day for Mexico. My mother is here in the stadium and I'd like to dedicate this title to her.'' 

Guevara set a personal best and the season's fastest time of 48.89 seconds. 

The Mexican entered the home straight well in the lead and extended it to beat Lorraine Fenton of Jamaica, who clocked 49.43.  

Amy Mbacke Thiam of Senegal, the last woman to beat Guevara when she won gold in Edmonton two years ago, settled for bronze in 49.95. 

Tom Pappas of the United States won the decathlon to beat world-record holder Roman Sebrle of the Czech Republic. 

Sebrle had been coming from behind from the opening event and steadily closed the gap as he moved from fourth place after the first day of the two-day competition. 

But Pappas ran a personal best of 4:44.31 in the 1,500 – the final event – and although he was slower than Sebrle, the American was fast enough to win with 8,750 points.  

Sebrle had 8,634 and Dmitry Karpov of Kazakhstan, leader after the first day, took bronze at 8,374. 

Perdita Felicien gave Canada its first gold of the championships by winning the women's 100 hurdles. On top of that, it was the first medal for a Canadian woman in championship history. 

Felicien clocked 12.53 seconds to nip season leader and Pan American Games champion Brigitte Foster of Jamaica, who ran 12.57. Miesha McKelvy of the United States earned the bronze in 12.67. 

“It is just shocking,'' the 22-year old Canadian said.  

“My goal was just to run the final and hopefully break the national record.'' She did both. 

Two more big names joined the growing list of upsets and injuries in five days of competition that have included such names as 100-meter world record holder Tim Montgomery and three-time champion Maurice Greene. 

Former Olympic and three-time world champion Astrid Kumbernuss of Germany failed to qualify for the women's shot put final. 

Four-time defending long jump champion and Olympic gold medalist Ivan Pedroso pulled out after the first qualifying jump with a foot injury. 

Svetlana Krivelyova of Russia won the gold medal in the shot put with a throw of 20.63 meters. – AP 

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