Taoufik has the final word

Thrown out and later reinstated,Algerian wins 1500m final; Kenya fail for first time in 20 years

Written by Associated Press | London | Published: August 9, 2012 12:47:30 am

First they told him to leave. Then they invited him back. Next they’ll give him the gold. Kicked out of the London Olympics for presumably not trying hard enough in another event,Algeria’s Taoufik Makhloufi got a second chance after a doctor took his side.

Back at the track Tuesday,he cashed in on that opportunity and won the 1,500 meters in 3 minutes,34.08 seconds,beating Leonel Manzano of the United States by 0.71 seconds. Abdalaati Iguider of Morocco got the bronze in 3:35.13.

“Yesterday I was out,’’ Makhloufi said. “And today I was in.’’

Ah,if it were only that simple. On Monday,the race referee in the 800 meters,Makhlouofi’s other event,kicked him out of the Olympics for “failure to compete honestly with bona fide effort’’ after he went out slowly and pulled himself out of the race on the first lap.

He may have simply been conserving energy for Tuesday night’s 1,500 final _ not unheard of in the world of track _ but the Algerian coaches insisted Makhloufi pulled out of the 800 because of a left knee injury. When a doctor examined the runner and said the injury was legit,track officials revoked the DQ and allowed him to start in the 1,500.

“I was not afraid of not being allowed to compete,’’ Makhloufi said. “I knew I had two choices. Either I would compete,or not be allowed to compete. I tried not to think about it too much. I tried to stay calm,continue with my experience and my training.’’

It was the latest twist at a games where the term “Olympic spirit’’ has certainly been put to the test. During the first week,four women’s badminton teams were disqualified for trying to lose and get a better draw for the next round. Then,at the start of the second week,Makhloufi took his turn _ getting off to a slow start uncharacteristic of the reigning African champion at 800 meters,then bailing out of the race and standing on the infield and applauding while the other seven runners passed.

A few hours after that,he was disqualified. He’s hardly the first runner to pull out or pull up in one race to get ready for another. And,to be fair,he was helped off the track after the 1,500-meter semifinal,held the day before the 800-meter heat.

“It’s not a big mistake. I have problem here,’’ Makhloufi said,pointing to his tender left knee. “It’s a dangerous injury,but I’m all right.’’

Manzano,who might have won this gold medal had Makhloufi not been around,said he wasn’t judging what was fair or not. “If he deserves it,I guess it was up to the people,’’ Manzano said. “I don’t know what his objective was. He probably knew what it was,but I really don’t know.’’

Manzano became the first American to win a medal in the metric mile since 1968,when distance star Jim Ryun took silver. The last previous U.S. gold in the men’s 1,500 came from Melvin Sheppard in 1908. Roger Bannister was in the house for this one,the first man to break the 4-minute barrier in the mile watching a development hardly anyone could have imagined.

Farah in 5000m final

Mo Farah made his return to the track as an Olympic champion and British hero on Wednesday and continued his bid for a long-distance double by reaching the final of the 5,000 metres.

Again,a full house of 80,000 fans at the Olympic Stadium showed up for a morning session,and they reserved their wildest cheer for Somali-born Farah,who provided the climax to Super Saturday when he won the 10,000m. His rivals in the 5,000 didn’t give him any extra space,as he had to fight for position several times before he put in a controlled dash for the line and a third-place finish which guaranteed him a place in Saturday’s final.

Pole vault qualifying was far less predictable,with world champion Pavel Wojciechowski failing to clear any height. Defending champion Steve Hooker of Australia bounced back from a disastrous start to the 2012 season to qualify for Friday’s pole vault final .

Pole-break for Cuban

Cuban vaulter Lazaro Borges suffered insult but no injury when his fibre glass pole broke as he attempted a jump. Attempting a leap of 5.35m,Lazaro began his approach run smoothly but when he planted his pole,it failed to take the pressure and fractured in three places. Borges was thrown backwards but seemed to suffer no injury as he went on to successfully leap the height. Borges subsequently managed to clear a height of 5.50m. The 26-year-old who has won a silver at the 2011 World Championships would fail to qualify for the final of the event.

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