LONDON — First they told him to leave. Then they invited him back. Next they’ll give him the gold.
Kicked out of the London Olympics for presumably not trying hard enough in another event, Algeria’s Taoufik Makhloufi got a second chance after a doctor took his side.
Back at the track Tuesday, he cashed in on that opportunity and won the 1,500 meters in 3 minutes, 34.08 seconds, beating Leonel Manzano of the United States by 0.71 seconds. Abdalaati Iguider of Morocco got the bronze in 3:35.13.
“Yesterday I was out,” Makhloufi said. “And today I was in.”
If only it were that simple.
On Monday, the race referee in the 800 meters kicked him out of the Olympics for “failure to compete honestly with bona fide effort” after breaking slowly and pulling out of the race on the first lap.
He may have simply been conserving energy for Tuesday night’s 1,500 final — not unheard of in track — but the Algerian coaches insisted Makhloufi pulled out of the 800 because of a left knee injury. When a doctor examined the runner and said the injury was legitimate, track officials revoked the DQ and allowed him to start in the 1,500.
“I was not afraid of not being allowed to compete,” Makhloufi said. “I knew I had two choices. Either I would compete or not be allowed to compete. I tried not to think about it too much. I tried to stay calm, continue with my experience and my training.”
Before Makhloufi’s win, Sally Pearson won the 100-meter hurdles in the drizzle to serve up a rare dose of sunshine for Australia at these Olympics. Pearson finished in 12.35 seconds to edge defending champion Dawn Harper of the United States by .02 seconds and win just the fourth gold for the Aussies.
American Kellie Wells was third and Lolo Jones fourth, a tear-inducing result for the woman who spent four years waiting for a second chance for Olympic gold after clipping the next-to-last hurdle while leading in Beijing four years ago.
“At least this time it was a clean, smooth race,” Jones said. “I wish I had a better result.”
Earlier, the women’s 200 semifinals went to form, with two-time defending champion Veronica Campbell-Brown and the woman she beat both times, American Allyson Felix, both making it to Wednesday’s final. Also there: 100-meter winner Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce of Jamaica and runner-up Carmelita Jeter and 400-meter champion Sanya Richards-Ross, both from the United States.
In the men’s 200, 100-meter champion Usain Bolt and runner-up Yohan Blake both cruised.
But China’s track superstar, Liu Xiang, barely made it out of the blocks in the 110 hurdles.
Liu crashed into the first barrier and had to hop his way down the track, stopping to kiss a hurdle on the way out.