This is the interview of Soufianne El Bakkali, done by Larry Eder at the Doha Diamond League on May 4, 2023. Special thanks and translations from French to English as well as Arabic, by Caroline Feith, one of our sports most enduring agents.
Soufianne El Bakkali is the Olympic champion and World Champion. The Moroccan is one of the true superstars of the sport. When I interviewed Soufianne in Doha at the Pullman Hotel, his coach and his manager, Caroline Feith, were in attendance.
Soufianne was quite gracious during the interviews, having spoken to a global media newspaper for nearly an hour. The world star was thoughtful and kind, and he took my questions in English, then translated them into Arabic and answered in French. The entire conversation, from Arabic to French to English.
El Bakkali trains for the middle distances, focusing on the 1,500m to 3,000m distance. His coach, Karim Tiemcani, likes to keep him focused on the 7 1/2 lap race. Soufianne does little barrier work, and his coach considers the pace at 1,500-3,000 very similar and is not a fan of his star pupil racing 5,000 meters.
Soufiane EL BAKKALI, by Wilberforce Chemiat KONES/Diamond League AG
The next day, Soufianne El Bakkali ran 7:33.87, finishing fourth behind Lamencha Girma, who won the 3000m flat in Doha.
At the Rabat Diamond League, the second meet of the Diamond League series in 2023, El Bakkali ran 7:56.68, his fastest ever. Remember, Soufianne ran 7:58.28, in 2022, in a duel with Girma.
At the Paris DL, Lamencha Girma ran a new WR of 7:52.12, putting Girma and El Bakkali at a place where they will be battling with all of their energies at the Budapest World Championships.
My take on Soufianne El Bakkali? Incredibly driven, but at the same time, confident of his coaching, management, and support within his country and focused on winning a second gold at the World Champs (Remember, Soufianne has gold, silver, and bronze at the WC and gold in Tokyo and 4th in Rio in the Olympic medal hunt).
The interview was fascinating, as Soufianne considered each question and answered quite completely.
It was a thrilling interview, and I am most grateful to Caroline Feith, one of our finest sports agents.
Special thanks to Brian Eder on the production of this unique interview.