Four visually-impaired Paralympic runners beat Olympic gold time in 1,500m race

Algeria's Abdellatif Baka (centre) finishes ahead of Ethiopia's Tamiru Demisse (left) in the 1500m T12/T13 final.
Algeria's Abdellatif Baka (centre) finishes ahead of Ethiopia's Tamiru Demisse (left) in the 1500m T12/T13 final. PHOTO: REUTERS

Not one, not two but four Paralympic athletes - including two brothers from Algeria - ran so fast in the 1500m T12/T13 final on Sunday (Sept 11) that their times would have won them an Olympic gold medal in the same event.

The quartet, who are visually impaired, all bettered the timing of Olympic champion Matthew Centrowitz Jr of the US, who clocked 3min 50sec to win the gold last month in Rio de Janeiro.

Algeria's Abdellatif Baka emerged victorious in an incredibly competitive Paralympic final, crossing the finish line in a world record time of 3min 48.29sec.

Tamiru Demisse of Ethiopia (3min 48.49sec) and Kenya's Henry Kirwa (3min 49.59sec) finished second and third respectively.

Baka's brother, Fouad, just missed out on a medal and had to settle for fourth with a time of 3min 49.84sec.

"It wasn't easy to get this gold medal," Abdellatif told the Paralympics' official website after the race.

"I've been working one or two years non-stop and it's been very, very hard for me."

There are three classes for visually impaired runners - T11, T12 and T13. The higher the number, the less severe the impairment.

The 1,500m race at last month's Olympics, however, was remarkable for being the slowest gold medal-winning time since 1932. 

 

Along with the other long distance running events, it is generally regarded as a tactical contest that plays out according to the strategies of the runners and track conditions. 

Centrowitz, whose personal best (3min 30.4sec) in the 1,500m is almost 20 seconds faster than his Olympic winning time, admitted as much: "Ideally, I like to be in second, kind of feeding off someone, whether it's fast or slow.

"I was actually prepared for a fast race. I thought if it wasn't fast from the get-go, someone would take it in the middle."

The Rio Paralympics, which takes place a month after the Olympics, began on Sept 7 and will end this Sunday (Sept 18).

Singapore currently has two medals - a gold and a bronze - courtesy of its swimmers Yip Pin Xiu and Theresa Goh.

Yip, 24, broke two world records en route to winning the 100m backstroke S2 final last Friday, while the 29-year-old Goh - a veteran of four Paralympics - finally won her first medal when she clinched the bronze in the 100m breaststroke SB4 on Monday.