Tokyo Olympics: Favourite for 800m gold Workua Getachew pulled from heats over Ethiopian dispute

Exclusive: The 26-year-old was tipped to be a serious medal contender in an event in which there are also high hopes for British duo Keely Hodgkinson and Jemma Reekie, but was withdrawn at the last moment

Lawrence Ostlere
Tokyo
Saturday 31 July 2021 06:18
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<p>Workua Getachew did not feature in the 800m heats</p>

Workua Getachew did not feature in the 800m heats

Workua Getachew, one of the major contenders for women’s 800m gold at the Tokyo Olympics, was pulled from this morning’s start line at the last moment over a dispute between Ethiopia’s governing bodies.

The 26-year-old stunned the athletics world earlier this year when she ran 1:56.67 to win the Ethiopian trials, held in the Netherlands in June, in what was then a 2021 world lead time and a new Ethiopian record. She was tipped to be a serious medal contender in Tokyo, in an event in which there are also high hopes for British duo Keely Hodgkinson and Jemma Reekie.

Getachew was listed on the Olympics website as a starter in heat one of Friday morning’s athletics programme. But she did not appear, with a footnote on the official records stating an unnamed athlete was withdrawn by their national Olympic committee.

The Independent understands the Ethiopian Athletics Federation (EAF) stepped in to withdraw Getachew from the race against the wishes of the Ethiopian Olympics Committee (EOC), in a dispute over an administrative issue.

The EOC had harboured hopes that Getachew would be granted an opportunity to run at the 11th hour, even if it meant performing a solo heat after the men’s 10,000m final has wrapped up the Friday evening programme, so that she might post a time to qualify for Saturday’s semi-finals. But they failed to secure permission.

Getachew’s absence robs the Olympics of a compelling battle with USA’s talented 18-year-old Athing Mu, although it would be a significant boost for British hopes.

The EOC and EAF have been approached for comment.

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