Kenyan runner opens up about controversial Beijing Half Marathon finish

©Beijing Half Marathon

Kenyan runner opens up about controversial Beijing Half Marathon finish

Festus Chuma 05:00 - 16.04.2024

Two Kenyan runners stirred controversy at the Beijing Half Marathon, leading to investigations and discussions about race integrity.

Kenyan runner Willy Mnangat has become the center of an international sports controversy after a surprising end to the Beijing Half Marathon. 

In a race watched by thousands, footage captured Mnangat alongside fellow Kenyan Robert Keter and Ethiopian Dejene Hailu Bikila, leading the pack until the final moments. Trailing just behind was China’s He Jie, the Asian Games marathon gold medalist.

The race took an unexpected turn as Mnangat was observed gesturing to He Jie, seemingly inviting him to take the lead.

 As He sprinted ahead in the final stretch, Mnangat and his companions did not challenge his sudden lead sparking a flood of speculation and uproar among fans and officials alike.

In an interview, Mnangat later explained what happened during Sunday's race.

 "He comes to Kenya and I was [pacing for him] in the Wuxi Marathon, so he is my friend, OK," he said as per South China Morning Post.

Shortly after these comments, Mnangat revised his statement, suggesting he was merely acting as a pacemaker—a role typically designated with a specific bib. 

However, all competitors, including Mnangat, wore the same type of bib, contradicting this later claim. 

The Beijing Sports Competition Management and International Exchange Centre has initiated an investigation into the race's conclusion. 

Observers, including sports analyst Dreyer, noted the rarity of such an occurrence. 

"It's very common for African pro runners to compete in top provincial races around China—but highly unusual they would let a Chinese runner win so obviously," Dreyer commented on X.

He Jie, on his part, defended his performance in a separate interview stated to the Chinese state media.

"I have never participated in a half marathon before, so this time I wanted to set a personal best. I just finished the Wuxi Marathon not long ago, so I was not in my best competitive state. If I had been in the same condition as during the Wuxi race, I believe my performance would have been better." 

His recent national record time of 2:06:57 at the Wuxi Marathon lends credence to his competitive capabilities.

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