He may only be 11, but ACG Parnell College’s Louay Benaoum has already set his sights on Olympic gold. And if his recent running achievements are anything to go by, then it is certainly not a pipe dream.
At this year’s Auckland Junior Track & Field Championships, Louay took out first place in his age group in the 1500 metres (one second away from breaking the Auckland record, held since 2007) and first in the 800 metres (0.36 of a second away from breaking the Auckland record, held since 1984). Not only that, but he competed in the Under 14 Daikin Night of 5s, placing second overall in the 2000 metre race and shattering his age grade record, which has been held since 2007.
“That was my proudest running achievement so far, and the Daikin Night of 5s is definitely my favourite event,” says Louay, who began running competitively two years ago with Auckland City Athletics Club and Eastern Athletic & Harrier Club.
Other 2021 highlights have included winning the Under 12 Boys Auckland Cross Country Champs by 39 seconds and the Under 12 Boys North Island Cross Country Champs by 16 seconds. Louay also won all five races for Under 12 Boys at this year’s Athletics Auckland Grand Prix Series.
With phenomenal results like this, it’s little wonder ACG Parnell College sports coordinator Steph Trowill is looking forward to 2022 when Louay becomes eligible to represent the school as a Year 7 student.
“His running times are unbelievable for someone his age, and there will be numerous opportunities available to him to make his mark in the school scene,” says Steph.
“To put things into perspective, Louay’s race time for his 1500m run earlier this year at the Auckland Junior Track & Field Championships would have placed him sixth at this year’s College Sport Auckland Athletics Championships for Junior Boys. And that event mostly consists of Year 9 students.”
Trained by top New Zealand running coach Graeme Holden, who describes Louay as “an elite National Class level athlete”, his potential is crystal clear. So too is his love of the sport.
“Being on the track gives me an indescribable feeling that drives my confidence in accomplishing the impossible,” explains Louay, who is originally from Algeria. “I’ve learnt that with consistency, persistence and discipline, you can achieve exceptional results.”
Inspired by Mo Farah (the most successful British track athlete in modern Olympic Games history) and blessed with an abundance of good genes (his father, grandfather and uncle are all running enthusiasts), Louay has got everything he needs to become a running sensation. And he’s not wasting any time.
“In the next 12 months, I’m aiming to break the 2000 metre, and 1500 metre records for my age group and my long-term running aspirations are to run at the Olympics.”