Four visually impaired Paralympians beat Olympic gold time in 1,500

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Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Algeria's Abdellatif Baka set a blazing pace in the Paralympics men's 1,500-meter final, turning in a time of 3 minutes, 48.29 seconds at Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday, good for a gold medal.

Had he run that time at the same track in August, he would have eclipsed surprise Olympic gold medalist Matthew Centrowitz's winning time of 3:50 in the same event.

Baka was not alone, either, as the second-, third- and fourth-place finishers in the Paralympics final all bettered the American Centrowitz's gold-medal winning time in Rio.

"It wasn't easy to get this gold medal," Baka said after the race, as quoted by the Huffington Post. "I've been working one or two years nonstop, and it's been very, very hard for me."

While many track and field observers considered the Olympic 1,500 to be an uncharacteristically slow and leisurely paced race, mostly because racing tactics outstripped outright speed, the distance in the Paralympics 1,500 - T12/13 final were the same and the race was in the same venue as the Olympic final and did not involve men competing on prosthetic racing blades or in wheelchairs.

The only difference from the Olympic race is that the T12/13 competitors have a visual impairment disability.

Tamiru Demisse of Ethiopia (3:48.59) took silver behind Baka, Henry Kirwa of Kenya (3:49.59) got bronze and Fouad Baka of Algeria (3:49.59) finished in fourth place.

Centrowitz's shocking win was the first title in the event for the United States since Mel Sheppard won the "metric mile" more than 100 years ago at the 1908 London Games.