INCHEON, South Korea (AFP) – Asian Games athletics judges stripped Bahrain’s Kenya-born runner Ruth Jebet of her steeplechase victory on Saturday as she was about to collect the gold medal.
The 17-year-old junior world champion was led away in tears as Bahraini team leaders wrangled with race officials who ruled that Jebet had stumbled and put a foot inside the track.
Jebet annihilated the field at Incheon’s Asiad Main Stadium, crossing the line in nine minutes, 31.36 seconds, more than 24 seconds inside the Games record. Jebet, who switched nationality to Bahrain last year, was about to step up to collect her medal when the stadium announcer declared that the result had been cancelled.
China’s Li Zhenzhu had already been given her silver medal and Lalita Babar of India her bronze.
Now a new ceremony will be organised with Li collecting gold.
Officials spotted that during her second-last lap, with her rivals well behind her and under no pressure at all, Jebet had stumbled and stepped inside the track. In the heat of the moment, one Bahrain official, who refused to give his name, called the decision a “disgrace”.
Half a dozen Bahraini officials marched to the referees’ office to lodge a complaint. But the team later conceded that Jebet made the fault.