Unusual Finish at Beijing Half Marathon: Prizes Withdrawn Amid Controversy

Beijing Half Marathon Controversy

This article was last updated on April 19, 2024

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Unusual Finishing Tactics Mar the Beijing Half Marathon

After an unusual ending to the recent Beijing half marathon, the runners who graced the podium now find themselves without their accolades. The event’s organization has demanded the return of medals, trophies, and prize money that were presented to the winners. This came about due to allegations of unsporting behaviour by athletes from Kenya and Ethiopia, who were accused of deliberately easing up to secure a victory for the local Chinese participant, He Jie.

Images and video of the eyebrow raising finish promptly went viral. He Jie is a renowned athlete in his homeland, boasting the national record, and has a victory at the Asian Games marathon under his belt. Observers at the event noted how he was deliberately allowed to take lead by two Kenyan and one Ethiopian runner just meters from the finish line, giving him an uncontested victory.

Runners Defend Their Actions

Illy Mnangat from Kenya, one of the runners implicated in the incident, initially admitted to letting He Jie win knowingly. He claimed that their shared camaraderie was the reason for his action, noting, “I did that because he is my friend,” in his interview with the BBC. However, he later changed his tune, stating that his role was essentially serving as a pace setter for He Jie.

Upon further investigation, the marathon organizers found that the three African athletes had been designated as “hares”, or pace setters, by a co-sponsor of the event, to assist He Jie in achieving an optimal running time. This detail was not disclosed to the event’s management. The standard practice of distinctly marking the bibs of pace-setters was also not followed here.

Global Athletic Community’s Response

The incident at the Beijing half marathon drew the attention of the World Athletics, the international governing body for the sport. “The integrity of our sport is the highest priority. We understand that an investigation is currently underway by local authorities,” they stated.

Subsequently, the local investigation into the event confirmed that the African athletes did indeed slow their pace deliberately, with the explicit intention to allow He Jie to take the lead and the win. The organizers have announced via state media that, “The trophies, medals and bonuses will be recovered.” They further extended an apology to the public and have also severed ties with the sports agency that coordinated the event.

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