Four visually-disabled Paralympians ran the 1,500m race faster than the Olympic gold medalist

Baka wins the gold!
Baka wins the gold!
Image: Reuters/Jason Cairnduff
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Algeria’s Abdellatif Baka won the men’s 1,500m T13 final at the Rio Paralympics, setting a world record for his event with a time of three minutes and 48.29 seconds. Not only that—he beat the best able-bodied athletes in the world in that event too, too.

His time beat Olympic gold medalist Matthew Centrowitz’s winning time of 3:50.00 set in August. The three runners-up also all beat Centrowitz’s winning time in Rio. (The T13 competitors had a visual impairment disability and did not involve men competing on prosthetic racing blades or in wheelchairs.)

“It wasn’t easy to get this gold medal,” Baka said in statement. “I’ve been working one or two years non-stop and it’s been very, very hard for me.”

That’s a huge achievement—but it should also be noted that last month’s Olympic men’s 1,500m final was the slowest Olympics final since 1932. Centrowitz was able to hold off most of the pack and win gold, but his winning time wouldn’t have medalled at all in the last 16 Summer Games.  “It’s like youth level, really… It was beyond slow,” one participant said.

With the announcement of budget cuts just a few weeks ago, there were fears Paralympic athletes would be arriving to a woefully unprepared city. The president of the International Paralympic Committee, Philip Craven, warned that the Paralympic movement faced its greatest challenge in its 56-year history.

But to many people’s surprise, the Rio Paralympic Games has been the second most attended Paralympic Games in history, beating Beijing in 2008. Last Saturday’s crowd of 167,675 beat the attendance of 157,000 on the busiest day of the Olympics.