Confusion rocks marathon as reports say 3 African athletes deliberately allowed China’s runner to win

Stephen Nartey April 16, 2024
Footage suggests Kenya’s Robert Keter and Willy Mnangat as well as Ethiopia’s Dejene Hailu signaled for He to take the lead. Image via YouTube/WSJ

Organizers of the Beijing half marathon are probing claims that three African athletes intentionally allowed China’s He Jie to win by slowing down and gesturing for him to pass.

Footage suggests Kenya’s Robert Keter and Willy Mnangat as well as Ethiopia’s Dejene Hailu signaled for He to take the lead. Chinese social media users who were appalled by the scene criticized the result. One of the athletes, Mnangat, stated they were running as pacemakers, according to the BBC.

The Kenyan athlete revealed that four runners were hired to assist He in breaking China’s half-marathon record of one hour two minutes 33 seconds, but one didn’t finish the race.

He fell short of the record, finishing in 1:03:44, just one second ahead of the trio who tied for second place. “I was not there to compete,” said Mnangat. “It was not a competitive race for me.”

A spokesperson at the Beijing Sports Bureau told AFP they were investigating the incident, adding: “We will announce the results to the public once they are available.”

Xstep, a Chinese sports brand sponsoring the event and with a contract with He, stated that the situation is still under investigation by multiple parties, promising to provide updates soon.

Mnangat however expressed confusion about his bib or chest number, questioning why it identified him by name instead of labeling him as a pacemaker.

“My job was to set the pace and help the guy win but unfortunately, he did not achieve the target, which was to break the national record.”

As of now, none of the other runners involved in the incident have provided comments.

Chinese runner He won marathon gold at the 2023 Asian Games and holds his country’s record for the full marathon.

World Athletics spoke to BBC Sport, acknowledging the online footage. “We are aware of the footage circulating online from the Beijing half marathon this weekend and understand an investigation is currently being conducted by the relevant local authorities.

“The integrity of our sport is the highest priority at World Athletics, while this investigation is ongoing we are unable to provide further comment.”

Chinese social media users on Weibo have shared posts discussing the race, with one comment saying, “this is no doubt the most embarrassing title of He Jie’s career.”

Another post added: “With such a major organizer and such a well-known event, this really pushes sportsmanship to the ground in shame.”

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: April 16, 2024


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