by Paul Giblin
LONDON, Aug. 8 (Xinhua) -- Algeria's Taoufik Makhloufi's win in the final of the men's 1,500 meter final on Tuesday night was one of the controversial moments of the London Olympic Games.
The Algerian runner produced a stunning finish in the last lap to sprint away from the field and cross the finish line with a comfortable lead over Leonel Manzano and Abdaali Iguider to claim his country's first gold medal, indeed their only medal of the Olympics to date.
But questions have been raised over his victory given that the Algerian had originally been kicked out of the Games following an incident in the heats of the 800 meters on Monday.
Having already assured his place in the final of the 1,500 meters, Makhloufi ran just over 100 meters of the 800 meter heat before stopping. The referee decided he had "not made a bona-fide effort" and excluded him from all other events in the competition. That decision was overturned later in the day after the decision by an independent doctor that Makhloufi had "suffered from a painful injury, which however, with appropriate treatment, may allow him to compete in 24 hours."
Clearly he received the "appropriate treatment" and there was little sign of any pain as he sprinted away from his rivals before insisting the physical problem which had earned him the reprieve had existed.
"It was a little hectic and not easy. I have a problem with my left leg and it may need surgery," said Makhloufi. "It was the will of God, yesterday I was out, today I was in," he commented about the decision.
It is doubtful whether or not Makhloufi truly was suffering any injury, but nevertheless reinstating the runner was the correct decision and one which probably accepts an error made in scheduling, which saw the semi-finals of the 800 meters run less than an hour before the final of the 1,500 meters.
Had the Algerian qualified for the semi-finals at 800 and raced his best there is no way he would have been able to compete for and win gold in the 1,500 meters.
Unfortunately the timing of the 800 and 1,500 meters races made the events mutually exclusive. This year in London nobody is going to run the final of both events, because it is a physically impossible task.
This has to be a mistake. As a youngster one of my best Olympic memories is the battle between Britain's Steve Ovett and Sebastian Coe (now Lord Coe, the Chairman of the Organizing Committee of the London Olympics) in the 800 and 1,500 meter races in Moscow in 1980.
Ovett surprisingly defeated Coe in the 800, only for Coe to recover his strength and run to victory in the 1,500 several days later, producing one of the iconic Olympic images as he crossed the finish line in the process.
The point here is that heats for the 1,500 meters didn't start until four days after the 800 meter final with the final six days after the 800 meter final. The men's 800 meter final in London is held on Thursday, just two days after the 1,500 meters.
The two distances are compatible: 800 meter runners can run 1,500 with no problem and vice-versa and as athletes such as Coe and Ovett showed, they can provide magnificent competition.
Britain's Mo Farah won the 10,000 meters on Friday August 3rd and then began competing in the 5,000 meters on August 8 as recovery time has been factored in to the schedule.
It has not been factored in for 800 and 1,500 meters meaning that if he wanted a shot at gold, Makhloufi simply had no option other than to get "injured".
Given Lord Coe's position in these Games, it is surprising that the events at which he excelled have been treated in this way.