Saturday, 18 August 2007

Focus on Athletes - Hamdi Dhouibi

Hamdi Dhouibi of Tunisia in the Decathlon's High Jump  (Getty Images)

Hamdi Dhouibi of Tunisia in the Decathlon's High Jump (Getty Images)

Updated - 18 August 2007

Hamdi DHOUIBI, Tunisia (decathlon)

Born 24 January 1982, Kairouan; 1.90m / 85kg

Coach: Karim Sassi

Club : AC Nabeul

Hamdi Dhouibi, the African champion and record holder for the Decathlon, started athletics very young. Hailing from a sporting family, his model was his elder sister Hanane, Arab and Tunisian champion in the Heptathlon and High Jump. But they are not the only ones from the family who are into athletics - Hamdi’s other sister, Seloua, is a Javelin specialist while younger brother, Ameur, is a promising hurdler.

At school Hamdi was easily singled out for being by far the tallest and possessing a sportsman’s physique. He started playing handball at school in 1993 and could have enjoyed a bright career in the sport, according to one of his former coaches. But, one day, he followed Hanane to a training session at Nabeul’s stadium and was hooked on athletics.

Under his first coach, Ahmed Slama, Dhouibi became Tunisian under-16 champion in the Pole Vault, his first love. In 1999, he was selected for the World Youth Championships, in Bydgoszcz, Poland, finishing 18th (4.40) in the Pole Vault qualification round. The following year he was advised to try Decathlon and was immediately successful.

In his first year of training he was Tunisian champion with 6186 points. He also won almost all the races and field events he took part at the individual senior championships and, in July, he broke the national junior record with 6961 points. At the end of August he set the national junior record in the Long Jump (7.41m). 

To improve his training, and find better competition, Dhouibi enlisted with Qatar club, Al Sad, and Uzbek coach Ramil Ganiyev who himself had a best of 8445 points. Ganiyev instilled in him the decathlon culture, taught him to combine the taste of victory with fun. Dhouibi broke the 7000 points barrier for the first time at the 2001 Qatar Championships, setting a new Tunisian junior record of 7136 points, before getting back to Tunisia in May that year.

At the national junior championships, in early July, Dhouibi improved his national junior Long Jump record (7.44m), scoring 6830 points despite a no-mark in the discus. In the same month, at the Francophone Games in Ottawa, he showed a huge improvement, setting a Tunisian, Arab and African junior record of 7548 points. It put him 7th on the 2001 World Junior list. Moving from success to success, at the African Junior Championships, in Mauritius, he clinched gold in the Pole Vault (4.60m) and bronzes in the Long Jump (7.18m) and 110m hurdles (15.37).

A few weeks later (September 2001), at the Mediterranean Games, in Tunis, Dhouibi won the silver medal with 7530 points and became a national hero. He was offered a scholarship to train at Mauritius high performance centre, which he turned down to work with Ganiyev in Tunis. Ganiyev landed in Tunisia in June 2002, in charge of Dhouibi’s preparation for the 2003 World Championships, in Paris, and the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.

Results were immediate. In August 2002, at the Tunis-held African Championships, Dhouibi broke the area record with 7965 points. Furthermore, he started 2003 on a high note, breaking the African record for the indoor Heptathlon at the French Championships in Aubière (5733 points). In April he improved Tunisia’s record for the 110m Hurdles (14.12) and scored 7851 points for his first Decathlon in Desenzano.

Sadly, though, a series of injuries to Dhouibi’s back and shoulder marred the following months. Then, at the World Championships, he pulled out after the Shot Put because of a groin injury that demanded 6 months’ treatment. Getting back into training proved difficult and required the support of the entire Dhouibi family.

Dhouibi returned to Qatar for a two-month training camp prior to the Olympics but the pain revisited him. After treatment, he took part in the Tunisian Championships, in July, clinching bronze in the 110m Hurdles (14.2) and helping his club to win the 4 x 100m. But, unable to reach a decent level, he pulled out of Athens. His only Decathlon in 2004 was at the Pan-Arab Games, in Algiers, in October, which he won (7595)

In 2005, Dhouibi switched back to former coach, Karim Sassi, to prepare for the World Championships, in Helsinki. In succession, he scored 7774 points in Salò, 7919 in Arles and 7847 for the bronze medal at the Mediterranean Games in Almeria. Then, in Helsinki, Dhouibi produced the best Decathlon of his young career, placing 11th with an African record (8023). In so doing he became the first African over 8000 points.

Dhouibi and Sassi had only one target for 2006 - the African title in Mauritius. At his first meeting, in Arles, he recorded a good wind-aided score of 7868 points. In Mauritius he took an easy gold (7566), and Pole Vault bronze (4.80) and was selected as a reserve for the African team for World Cup, in Athens.

In 2007, Dhouibi started specific work to improve on his weaknesses, notably in the throws, with a view to success at the World Championships, in Osaka. But for his first test, in Götzis, he pulled out after 4 events with a toe injury. He returned in July, at the All Africa Games, in Algiers, winning without difficulty (7838) and adding another Pole Vault (bronze (4.90m).

With the arrival in June of Canadian scientific expert, Denis Methode, to help him polish his preparation, Dhouibi hopes to better his African record and leave a lasting impression in Osaka.


Yearly progression

2000: 6961; 2001: 7548; 2002: 7965; 2003: 7851; 2004: 7596; 2005: 8023; 2006: 7566; 2007: 7838

Personal bests

Decathlon:    8023 (2005)
Heptathlon (indoors):  5733 (2003)
100m     (10.55/10.74*)
400m     (47.04)
1500m    (4:21.15)
110m Hurdles   (14.04w/14.12)
High Jump    (1.99)
Pole Vault    (5.10)
Long Jump    (7.49)
Shot Put    (13.91)
Discus Throw   (43.96)
Javelin Throw   (55.12)
*doubt over 10.55

Career highlights

2001   2nd  Francophone Games  (7548)
2001  2nd Mediterranean Games (7530)
2002  1st  African Championships (7965)
2004  1st Pan-Arab Games (7596)
2005  3rd  Mediterranean Games (7847)
2005  11th  World Championships (8023)
2006   1st  African Championships (7566)
2007   1st  All-Africa Games (7838)


Prepared by Taoufik Gacem for the IAAF ‘Focus on Athletes’ project. ©  IAAF 2007.