‘Lazarus’ Makhloufi feted to win 1,500By: MITCH PHILLIPS
LONDON – Algerian Taoufik Makhloufi was controversially reinstated into Tuesday’s Olympic 1,500 metre final against the odds. Paradoxically, the 24-year-old roared to victory in the traditional blue riband event of the Games with American Leonel Manzano and Moroccan Abdalaati Iguider trailing in his wake.
Makhloufi described his reinstatement as “the will of God”, when in fact it was the will of the International Association of Athletics Federations who were persuaded that the Algerian had been suffering from a mystery injury when he dropped out of his 800m heat on Monday.
They had taken a different view after he jogged around 300 metres of his first-round 800m race before stepping off the track having been forced to start after his federation forgot to scrap his entry.
He was quickly thrown out of the Games for “not making a bona fide effort”, only for the decision to be reversed after evidence provided by two doctors confirmed ‘the athlete suffered from a painful injury, which however, with appropriate treatment, may allow him to compete in 24 hours.’
Having scorched the last lap to win Tuesday’s race in three minutes 34.08 seconds it was no surprise that Makhloufi faced a barrage of questions about his near-miraculous overnight recovery. “I had a knee injury,” he told reporters. “I was told it might be dangerous to run in the 800m but I wanted to race.”
World champion Sally Pearson of Australia also pulled out all the stops to claim the 100 hurdles title, edging out 2008 gold medallist Dawn Harper by 0,02 seconds for victory.
Pearson led from the start in the hurdles but, for once, did not pull away from the field, crossing the line with Harper.
The pair faced an anxious wait for the result which finally showed Pearson as victor in an Olympic record 12,35, Harper second and fellow American Kellie Wells third. The champion looked shell-shocked when her name flashed up on the scoreboard first.
“Relief was the first thing I felt and then shock. I’m just going through the motions,” said the 25-year-old Pearson. “I really wanted this.”
Harper had thought for one fleeting moment the title was still hers.
“Then I looked up (at the scoreboard) and then I said ‘darn, I didn’t get her”. It was a really close race,” Harper said.
Earlier, it looked as though German discus thrower Robert Harting could have given the women a run for their money as, stripped to the waist, he leaped the hurdles in celebration after his gold medal, producing a cheer from the crowd each time.
Harting took the lead from Iran’s Ehsan Hadadi in the penultimate round with a throw of 68,27.
“I don’t drink beer, I will have a non-alcoholic beverage,” the world champion said of his celebration plans. Hadadi’s silver with 68,18 was Iran’s first Olympic track and field medal. There were five medallists in the high jump, led by Russian Ivan Ukhov who cleared 2.38 despite jumping in a t-shirt after losing his competition vest.
American Erik Kynard took silver with 2.33 and the bronze was shared by Qatar’s Mutaz Essa Barshim, Canadian Derek Drouin and Robert Grabarz of Britain, who all jumped 2.29 with identical records.
“It’s going to be busy on the podium,” Grabarz said. “As long as we get a medal each and don’t have to split it we’ll be all right.”