INCHEON, South Korea (AFP) – Adnan Taess Akkar won Iraq’s first gold medal of the Asian Games Wednesday when the top three finishers in the men’s 800 metres final were sensationally disqualified.
The 34-year-old originally came in fourth, but was awarded the gold medal when the trio in front of him had their results cancelled for obstruction and lane violations.
The Iraqi was all smiles as he mounted the podium alongside China’s Teng Haining and Qatari Jamal Hairane, who were promoted to silver and bronze respectively.
The ceremony went ahead despite protests from Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Bahrain over the disqualifications of their athletes.
The drama comes just days after Bahrain’s Ruth Jebet was stripped of her steeplechase win as she was about to step onto the victory podium, only to be reinstated the next day.
Saudi runner Abdulaziz Mohammed had lunged to beat Qatar’s Musaab Bala on the line, with Abraham Kipchirchir Rotich of Bahrain coming in third.
But the Incheon Asiad’s official website said Mohammed was disqualified for obstruction, while Bala and
Rotich were penalised for breaking lane regulations.
Just after the bell for the last lap, Mohammed faltered and appeared to grab Rotich’s shirt, almost pulling off his bib number.
A Saudi official told AFP the team were appealing against the disqualification, saying Mohammed had stumbled innocently and had not impeded the Bahraini.
Officials from Qatar and Bahrain said their delegations had also protested.
But the victory ceremony went ahead and an elated Akkar, who took bronze in the 1,500m and 800m silver in 2010, grinned broadly, draped in the Iraqi flag, as he received his medal.
Speaking to AFP before the disqualification was announced, Mohammed had played down the incident.
“There was some touching between me and the Bahraini – I wanted to move out but the touching stopped me. There was no grabbing (of the shirt),” he said through a translator.
But a Bahrain official insisted Rotich had been impeded and had only left his lane because his shirt was pulled.
“Between the Saudi Arabian and the Indian there was jostling, when the Saudi Arabian went to fall he took our athlete by the shirt,” a Bahrain official told AFP.