BEIRUT

Olympics

Algerian gold medalist: Ban didn’t affect me

LONDON: Algeria’s Taoufik Makhloufi said being disqualified from the London Olympics for not trying did not affect his focus after he came back to win the 1,500-meter title just a day later on Tuesday.

Makhloufi was kicked out Monday for not trying in the 800m, but reinstated when he appealed on medical grounds, citing a knee injury. On Tuesday, he beat a strong field for the 1,500m gold medal.

The 24-year-old said he was still undergoing treatment for the knee problem, adding that it had been corroborated by independent medical tests.

“I was suffering from a knee injury,” explained Makhloufi, whose left knee was strapped. “I was told that racing and competing might be dangerous for me by the team doctors.

“But I insisted and competed, and it is true that I raced 800m and they decided to exclude me.

“However, that did not have a huge affect on my morale. I underwent independent medical tests which showed up my injury and I was allowed to compete in the 1,500m.”

He added that the excitement of winning the 1,500m had allowed him to temporarily forget his pain.

“I was not afraid of not being able to compete. There were two choices: either I’d be allowed to or not. I tried not to think about it too much,” Makhloufi said.

“I just continued with my exercises and training, and managed to compete. Of course, every person who wins a race forgets injuries and pains. But I’m still hurting a bit, and I will continue treatment.”

Makhloufi came from nowhere, kicking with 300m remaining, to usurp a trio of powerful Kenyans to win Algeria’s second gold in the event after Noureddine Morceli in the 1996 Atlanta Games.

American Leonel Manzano claimed silver in three minutes 34.79 seconds, with Morocco’s Abdalaati Iguider taking bronze in 3:35.13. Defending champion Asbel Kiprop and world silver medalist Silas Kiplagat, both of Kenya, were well off the pace.

Makhloufi, 24, has dropped from a personal best of 1:46.32 to 1:43.88 in the 800m this year, and sliced more than two seconds off his 1,500m time.

“To win a gold medal you need years of preparation and good coaches,” said Makhloufi, who has changed his coach twice recently. “I’ve been working hard since the age of 15. I have witnessed in the way I was preparing for competition that I was in good form.

“Also, during the semis and qualification rounds, I won and that encouraged me, it gave me a lot of strength. The result was very positive and end result a good one.”

Makhloufi added that he was now looking forward to seeing his family in Algeria for the first time in months.

“At the beginning of the year, I witnessed some dire conditions. I changed my coach, and for seven months I trained in Europe and Africa and didn’t see my family,” he said.

“My family has only seen me on television screens, but I imagine they’re delighted ... I worked hard to achieve this goal, to win this medal.”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 09, 2012, on page 13.

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