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Gabriela Szabo

fast-women.com/athletes/bios/sfavorhamilton.html" Suzy Favor Hamilton in the 1,500m at the 2000 Prefontaine Classic. However, the 24-year-old Romanian was simply protecting her more than two-year-old winning streak -- a streak that indicates her place among the top runners in the world. Though that streak has since been broken, Szabo is unquestionably one of the best middle distance/distance runners in the sport today, if not the best.
Szabo's resume includes a silver medal in the 1,500m at the 1996 Olympics, gold in the 5,000m at the 1997 World Championships, gold at 1,500m and 3,000m at the 1999 World Indoor Championships, gold in the 5,000m at the 1999 World Outdoor Championships, and most recently, gold in the 5,000m and bronze in the 1,500m at the 2000 Olympic Games. In 1999, she was named Athlete of the Year by the IAAF, Track & Field News and Athletics International. She currently holds two world indoor records: 2,000m (5:30.53) and 5,000m (14:47.35). In 1999, Szabo swept all the 3,000m races in the seven-meet Golden League series, earning half of the $1 million jackpot awarded to athletes who remain undefeated through the series. She and Danish 800m runner, Wilson Kipketer each earned $500,000, and by the end of the year, Szabo had become the first female athlete to win more than $1 million in prize money in one year.

As a child, Szabo participated in swimming and gymnastics. When it became apparent that she wasn't going to be good enough to make the Olympics, she switched to track. At the age of 13, Szabo was discovered Gyongyossy Zsolt while dominating a 600m race. She then left her native Bistrita to train at the prestigious Rapid Bucharest Sports Club. As a 15-year-old in 1991, Szabo won the European Junior 3,000m title, then went on to repeat that win in '92, '93 and '94. She also won gold (1994) and silver (1992) medals at that distance at the World Junior Championships. She made a smooth transition to the senior level, winning bronze medals at the European Championships and the World Cup. And at age 19, she became the youngest World Indoor Champion in history, winning the 3,000m.
At the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Szabo finished second to Russia's Svetlana Masterkova in the 1,500m. That silver medal was a great disappointment to Szabo, who had expected and promised gold. Earlier in the Games, she had failed to qualify for the 5,000m final -- an event that was considered her best chance for a medal. At the 2000 Games in Sydney, Szabo outkicked Ireland's Sonia O'Sullivan in the 5,000m to win the gold medal and erase the disappointment of Atlanta. Later in the Games, she came back to win a bronze medal in a tactical 1,500m race.

Szabo has become so well-known in Romania that she finds it difficult to train at home. Instead, she has spent much of her time training on a farm near Potchefstroom, South Africa.

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