Americans won four track and field medals Tuesday at Olympic Stadium, but Makhloufi’s memorable run in the men’s 1,500 flipped one of these Summer Games’ most prominent story lines on its head. Makhloufi had been ousted just a week after eight badminton players were expelled for not giving full effort, and in less than 36 hours time, he went from having an eviction notice to a gold medal.
“I think this race and the fact that I won this race gives new hope to the Algerian people,” Makhloufi said later, “especially in the field of athletics.”
Makhloufi’s victory capped a night in which four U.S. athletes paraded the stars and stripes around the stadium. Leo Manzano finished second to Makhloufi in the men’s 1,500, Erik Kynard
won silver in the high jump and the Americans took both silver and bronze in an exciting women’s 100 meter hurdles race.
Australian hurdler Sally Pearson set an Olympic record, winning gold with a time of 12.35 seconds. The U.S. athletes claimed the race’s next three positions. Dawn Harper was just two-hundredths of a second away from successfully defending her Olympic title from Beijing, finishing in 12.37 and settling for silver only after the times flashed on the stadium scoreboard.
“I was like: ‘Did I sneak? Did I just sneak and get past her?’” Harper said. “I looked up, and I actually realized I didn’t win when I saw [Pearson] fall to the ground. I was like: ‘Dang it, she’s happy. She just won.’ ”
Kellie Wells took bronze, crossing the finish line in a personal-best 12.48, and Lolo Jones was fourth, finishing in 12.58, her best time of the season.
“Obviously, I’m crushed,” Jones said.
In the months leading up to the Games, Jones had appeared on talk shows and magazine covers, serving as one of the most visible U.S. Olympians headed to London. Though the popular hurdler finished one-tenth of a second away from a medal Tuesday, it was still better than the 2008 Games, when Jones hit the 10th hurdle and crashed after leading the entire race.
“At least I can lift my head up a little bit higher, and when I tell my kids about when their mom ran at the Olympics, it won’t be a bittersweet memory,” she said.
Following the women’s hurdles, the men walked onto the track for the 1,500, the night’s final event. Makhloufi was just happy to be among them.
On Monday, he was forced to compete in an 800 qualifying race because his country’s Olympic committee failed to withdraw his name. Already qualified for the 1,500, Makhloufi ran barely 150 meters of the two-lap race, apparently because a pre-existing knee injury flared up.
Because he walked off the track before the finish, he was booted from the Games, and the International Association of Athletics Federations issued a statement that said “the referee considered that he had not provided a bona fide effort and decided to exclude him from participation in all further events in the competition.”