Four Paralympians who ran in the men’s T-13 class 1500 metre race bettered the time recorded by the runner who won gold at the Rio Olympics for the same event. In August, American Matthew Centrowitz won gold in Rio de Janeiro after completing the 1500-metre race with a time of 3:50.00. Impressive as the achievement is in itself, it has been somewhat overshadowed by what the visually impaired athletes achieved.
Fouad Baka of Algeria, reportedly finished the race recording a time of 3:49.84, 16th of a second faster than Centrowitz. Although he bettered the time recorded by the Olympics gold medal winner, Baka couldn’t book a place on the podium as his time was bettered by three other athletes. Henry Kirwa of Kenya won bronze with a time of 3:49.59, Tamiru Demisse of Ethiopia won silver after finishing posting at time of 3:48.59 on the board while the gold medal went to Fouad Baka’s brother and compatriot Abdellatif Baka. Abdellatif finished with a time of 3:48.29; more than a full second quicker than Centrowitz. Abdellatif’s time is also, reportedly, a T-13 world record.
The T-13 class is for those with visual disability. Athletes in the Paralympics face the same obstacles that their counterparts may face on the Olympics in addition to not having visual feedback.
While the Paralympians’ efforts cannot be understated in any way, it is also important to note that 1500-metre races are as much about strategy and stamina as it is about speed, unlike a 100-metre sprint where the athletes aim at reaching the finish line in the least possible time. Also, the 1500-metre finals in Rio 2016 was, reportedly, a relatively slow race.
Even then, the efforts of the Paralympic runners is a testimony to their spirit. Running with practically no eyesight and still outperforming the Olympic gold medallist is an achievement that can never be taken away from them.