Suspicion and Intrigue on the Track at the Barcelona 1992 Olympics | Strangest Moments
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Suspicion and Intrigue on the Track at the Barcelona 1992 Olympics | Strangest Moments

August 13, 2019


When Khalid Skah stepped on
the podium in 1992, two days after winning the
men’s 10,000 metres, the Barcelona crowd made it
clear what it thought of the Moroccan’s performance. The jeers that rained down on
Skah greeted one of the most controversial victories in
modern Olympic Games history. In the minds of those fans, Skah was one of the all-time
Olympic Games sinners, alongside his team-mate and
alleged co-conspirator, Hammou Boutayeb. The men stood accused of
engineering a cynical triumph that went beyond the limits
of acceptable race strategy. Richard Chelimo of Kenya had been denied gold by his
archrivals from North Africa,
who had run the race as a team. The accusations were far
from proven. Boutayeb’s behaviour was
certainly unusual, but in the eyes of some
observers, he was innocent. Perhaps it was karma. The Kenyans themselves had
often been accused of some dubious team racing. Either way, Skah’s triumph
felt very hollow indeed. In 1992, the Kenyans and
Moroccans were the kings of long-distance running. Morocco had the reigning
Olympic champion in its ranks, but Kenya dominated
the 10,000 metres at the World Championships the
previous year. Eight of the world’s 11 fastest
men over the distance were Kenyan. In Barcelona, the scene was set
for the next battle. The atmosphere was hostile. And by the time the race
was 6,500 metres old, all other parties slipped away. It was Chelimo verus Skah,
head-to-head. That, at least, was how it
seemed. But coming towards
the end of lap 22, the race leaders encountered
that man, Boutayeb. He was second last, a back
marker, a man whose only job now was to
move aside and be lapped. But Boutayeb would not be
moved. And what happened over the next
few laps was the source of
the controversy. Boutayeb wouldn’t get out
of the way. Chelimo and Skah overtook him, but then he overtook them right
back. They passed again, but Boutayeb run alongside
them, then he got back in front. What was Boutayeb doing
back there, anyway? He was 36,
but still an elite athlete. It looked like
a Moroccan conspiracy. The idea seemed to be too slow
down and distract Chelimo with all the suspicious
shenanigans, and then allow Skah to run
clear. Race officials thought it was
odd. The chairman of the IAAF
technical committee stepped onto the track to try and hold back Boutayeb. The crowd grew restless,
and booed what they saw. And even after Skah sprinted
clear of Chelimo to cross the line first, and blew kisses to the
supporters, he found he had few. They believed they had
witnessed a con. Almost immediately,
the authorities concurred. The IAAF disqualified Skah,
citing a breach of rule 143.2. But Skah said he had no idea
what Boutayeb had been up to. They weren’t even friends. Skah said Boutayeb was an
animal and an imbecile. TRANSLATION: I think as a
former champion it was an embarrassment for him
to be lapped. The authorities were stung by
claims that they had been hasty. Skah said they were racist
and thieves. And the IAAF relented again. They reinstated Skah and gave
him the gold medal. But what was the truth?
Will we ever know? Chelimo said he heard Boutayeb
and Skah talking to each other on the track.
What was being said? TRANSLATION: I was yelling at
him to go away. “You are making big troubles.
You are making big troubles.” But inside the big stadium
was 50,000 people yelling and whistling, you cannot hear
anything. The Kenyans threatened to walk
out. The credibility of the sport
was in jeopardy. But Boutayeb remained silent, even as Skah stepped onto
the podium to receive his medal. What could I do? It was my duty and obligation to go out there and face it as
best as I could. I was smiling, but
very sad inside. My honour was at stake. And I would not go out and face
them if I had felt I had dishonoured myself.

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  1. Boutayeb estorba a los dos corredores, no sólo a su compatriota…los kenianos siempre se quejan de todo

  2. I've actually watched this race. He blocked both men, slowing both of them down, not just the Kenyan. Likely a bad case of pride, not liking being lapped.

  3. What assistance did Skah receive? Bouttaib (who was actually the defending champion from 1988) was allowed to run with the people that lap him if he wanted to and I didn't see any point where he actually impeded Chelimo. If he got in front and slowed down Chelimo had plenty of room to pass him if he wanted to go faster and if he got in front and tried to get them to go faster they were under no obligation to follow them. I suspect that he was just thinking for a bit that maybe he didn't want to end up being lapped because it's a bit humiliating. If he was plotting with Skah we would have seen him trying much harder to stay really close to Chelimo and actually make him adjust his stride, but he never did. Bouttaib kept a bit of space ahead of Chelimo whenever he went back in front of them. The official really had no business going onto the track and physically contacting Bouttaib. Staying with the runners that lapped him for this long was not very sportsmanlike for sure and he should have just stayed clear and let the other two race on their own, but it wasn't against any rules and it didn't really affect the race. Skah was going to outsprint Chelimo here no matter what, and it was correct to reinstate him and let him keep the gold medal. But it was a bit bizarre to watch because we don't generally see anything like it from lapped runners for more than 50 metres of so after which they usually just drop off.

  4. Both have always run strategically as teams to beat opponents. It's a stain on both nations' distance athletes. Not to mention the EPO problem both also have.

  5. Skah was actually bothered and impeded more. At the 2:40 mark of the video you can actually see Boutayeb move out to let Chelimo go ahead on the inside of the track. He was still outside Chelimo when the official tapped him on the arm. So, he was actually blocking and bothering Skah more than Chelimo. As to Skah cutting in front of Chelimo, that is not shown on this tape, but he obviously was outsprinting Chelimo to the wire. Skah deserved the gold medal.

  6. Why should Skah be stripped of his Gold? Skah didn't impede anyone. The Kenyan should have taken up a weight lifting program to be able to respond to being pushed around.

  7. The track official was way out of line. He has no business touching let alone pushing elite athletes on the track.

  8. The silver medalist Richard Chelimo, Rest in peace, he passed away back in 2001 in Eldoret, Kenya….he was a good guy.

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