I am a big fan of Usain Bolt but champions will come and go, says Saeed Aouita. Image Credit: Atiq Ur Rehman/Gulf News

Dubai: Saeed Aouita, the legendary Moroccan track and field athlete, believes that money should never be the criterion in selecting a sport to excel.

Speaking to Gulf News, Aouita who is in Dubai to witness the Dubai Marathon, said: “Money should not be the key factor in wanting to produce a result in sport. If money is the focus, it can lead to many problems and distract a sportsperson from achieving his or her goal.

“Money is important to develop athletes and to create champions. In the Eighties and Nineties, the champions did not have much money but still achieved their goals,” said Aouita, who was once the world record holder in 1500m, 2000m, 3000m and 5000m.

Aouita believes that every era produces great athletes. “I am a big fan of Usain Bolt but champions will come and go. Very soon Bolt will face tough challenges. In the eighties, it was my time in middle distance running and, during the end of the seventies and early eighties, it was of Sebastian Coe. Every period will have great runners. I believe one day the Arab world, too, will produce great runners if they keep trying. Even if we don’t produce athletes like Bolt, someone almost near to him will be a great star.”

When asked about his advice to young athletes trying to emulate him, Aouita said: “My advice to those who wants to be champions in any sport is to work hard and believe in themselves. They should also listen to people who have experience. Nothing is impossible if you work hard.”

What was the best piece of advice that he received in his career? “It was from my mother. She told me don’t ever give up. I followed it and never gave up my dream. I have received advice from many but my mother’s advice stands out as she always told me, if you want to achieve anything then go for it without giving up.”

Aouita condemned athletes who are resorting to performance- enhancing drugs. “Everyone should strive to keep the sport clean. I believe that one should achieve glory through sheer hard work. Even if some do not achieve their goal on the way, they would have experienced something very special in their life. That is an achievement by itself.”

Asked about the greatest achievement of his career, Aouita said: “My greatest moment is winning the Olympic gold. It is the dream of everyone and I am happy that I dominated middle distance running from 800 to 10,000 — breaking records, which are all achievements of my life, and everything happened because of sheer hard work and nothing else. My message to everyone is hard work will always yield results.”