Mahiedine Mekhissi is retiring. The triple Olympic medalist in the 3,000 meter steeplechase has decided to quit athletics at the age of 37. It has one of the most extensive track records in the discipline in France.
“I stop because the desire is no longer there. I no longer enjoy going to train. I felt it was time to say stop,” he told the sports daily.
Three medals at the Olympics
Mekhissi has one of the finest track records in French athletics with three medals at the Olympic Games (silver in 2008 in Beijing and 2012 in London, bronze in 2016 in Rio) and two at the World Championships (bronze in 2011 and 2013) over 3,000 m steeplechase.
He also has five European champion titles (four over 3,000m steeplechase in 2010, 2012, 2016, 2018, one over 1,500m in 2014).
Since his last European title in August 2018, Mekhissi had suffered several injuries, in particular to an Achilles tendon, and had not returned to international level.
Surprise in 2008
Each time, Mekhissi had appeared out of nowhere, reducing his appearances in competition to the bare minimum before making his knowledge of the race in the championship speak. This need to live hidden, and this distrust which was reflected as soon as the microphones were tense, perhaps found their origins in the circumspect reception which had followed its dazzling appearance on the international scene at the Beijing Olympics in 2008.
Silver medalist to everyone’s surprise, his unexpected podium had aroused doubts and incomprehension, especially since his trainer at the time had a sulphurous reputation.
“My doping is my faith in myself, in my strength. I started directly with problems, I did not understand why so many things were said about me… it makes me the man I am today”, he explained afterwards.
The tall dark man, strong for a cross-country skier, with a shy smile, had then experienced a few slippages which had tarnished his image. In July 2011, he exchanged surreal and ridiculous punches on the Monaco track with Mehdi Baala. It was then an official of the Creps de Reims who accused him of having attacked him.
Two mascots, those of the Euros 2010 and 2012, strongly pushed, had also been able to get to know the impulsive character of Mekhissi, eighth child of ten siblings of Algerian origin raised in a housing estate in Reims.
Boosted on the track, he wanted to celebrate his victory at the Zurich Euro in the 3,000 m steeplechase by taking off his jersey like a footballer in the home straight before crossing the line, a symbol of his margin over the competition. A glitch in the regulations which had earned him a cruel disqualification.
Two days later, he had his revenge by imposing himself masterfully over 1500 m. All spitting Mekhissi.
“People have a false image of me, the European record holder for the 3,000 m steeplechase (8 min 00 sec 09, July 6, 2013 at the Stade de France) told AFP one day in his soft voice. stadium, we go to battle, I’m not the everyday Mahiedine. People can’t assimilate it. I find it sad, because sometimes they are afraid to approach me. My character and my temperament is my strength: without it I wouldn’t have the same track record”.