'Injured' Taoufik Makhloufi races to 1500m gold after reinstatement


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The Independent Online

On Monday Taoufik Makhloufi was thrown out of the Games for not trying; last night, having earned a reprieve, the Algerian won the 1500m gold, running clear of the field to win by more than 10 metres. It marked one of the more startling recoveries of the Olympics.

Makhloufi was granted a second chance after he produced medical evidence that an injury had forced him to walk in his 800m heat – the IAAF, track and field's governing body, had originally taken umbrage at the sight of him walking around the track and expelled him for not trying, in effect for bringing the sport into disrepute.

On Monday night two doctors informed the IAAF that the 24-year-old had "suffered from a painful injury, which however, with appropriate treatment, may allow him to compete in 24 hours." Yesterday morning the IAAF softened its stance and sure enough Makhloufi recovered to win gold, quite possibly on one leg.

"I have a problem with my left leg and it may need surgery," he said afterwards, although it did not stop him completing an ecstatically bouncy lap of honour either. "It's the will of God. Yesterday I was out, today I'm in. This is a gift for the Algerian people and for the whole of the Arabic world."

Makhloufli produced a field-breaking final lap to win in three minutes 34.08 seconds and ahead of Leonel Manzano, who took the United States's first 1500m medal since 1968. Morocco's Abdalaati Iguider won bronze as Kenya failed to win a 1500m medal for the first time two decades.

On Monday he had jogged then walked the first 300m of his 800m heat before stepping off the track. He had not wanted to race but Algerian officials had forgotten to withdraw his entry and so he was compelled to take to the track, albeit fleetingly.

Asbel Kiprop, seeking to equal Sebastian Coe's unique achievement of winning the Olympic 1500m twice, came last. His race really was dogged by injury – the Kenyan was well below his best having picked up a hamstring injury last week.

Earlier, Australia's Sally Pearson was the strong favourite to add the Olympic 100m hurdle title to her world title but given the Games her country have been enduring no-one was counting their wallabies.

They need not have worried about Australia's golden girl, although she and the rest of the country were compelled to hold their breath for an agonising 30 seconds before the result flashed up on the giant scoreboard. Pearson and the American Dawn Harper, the Beijing gold medallist, had matched each other hurdle by hurdle in the rain but at the line it was Pearson's lunge that won it by 0.02sec.

"It's a dream," she said. "Relief was the first thing I felt and then shock. I really wanted this – I've worked so hard for two years. To see my name on the scoreboard, I just can't believe it. I didn't realise how close Dawn was until the end. I said in my head, 'Please don't let this happen, I need this'."

She got it. Gold for the 25-year-old followed cycling gold for Anna Meares a couple of hours earlier and things are looking up for Australia, not least because they are now clear of New Zealand in the medal table.

Pearson has fallen flat under pressure before, crashing out in the Commonwealth Games to the disappointment of the home crowd in Melbourne. But that was six years ago and she has grown into one of the most dominant athletes in the world over the last two years. It was another hair-raisingly fast race. The first three – bronze went to another American, Kellie Wells – all recorded personal bests. Pearson's time of 12.35 was an Olympic record, 0.02sec quicker than Joanna Hayes in Athens in 2004, and it crowns a run of form that has left the world behind – she has lost just one race in a year.