Chinese long distance runner He Yinli missed out on potentially winning the Suzhou Taihu Marathon on Sunday, November 18 and it had nothing to do with her. With the finish line in sights, Yinli shared the final few metres with just one competitor and it looked set to be a close finish until a volunteer thrust the country’s flag in her hands. The surprise element and insistence on holding the flag in the final lap seemed to slow the runner down and despite she later dropping the flag, it had done enough to steal the chance from her of winning the marathon.
Yinli and Kenya’s Ayantu Abera De Misse were vying for the fastest time when a volunteer thrust the Chinese flag into her hands but she managed to avoid the volunteer and continued on with the race. The volunteer, however, began chasing the runner in a poor attempt to pass on the flag.
Chinese athlete He Yinli missed out on winning a marathon after spectators insisted on handing her the Chinese flag close to the finish line. The athlete lost her rythm when the flag was thrust in her hand. She later dropped the flag and also lost the race.@IndianExpress pic.twitter.com/TUFL9zP0Kn
— zeeshan shaikh (@zeeshansahafi) 19 November 2018
Unluckily for Yinli, there was another volunteer who jumped into the middle of the street and practically shoved the flag into her hand. The Chinese participant carried the flag for a few seconds before discarding it, but at that point, De Misse had started to pull away. In the end, Yinli finished in second place, trailing Abera De Misse by 5 seconds, according to the marathon’s official Weibo account.
The incident emerged as a top trending topic on China’s micro-blogging site Weibo, with over 100 million internet users watching the controversial marathon. While most blamed the volunteers, some questioned why she could not run with the flag. He Yinli took to Weibo to clarify writing, “I didn’t throw it, the flag was completely soaked, and my arms were very stiff. When my arms were swaying, the flag flew out. I’m very sorry and hope you can understand!”