The 10,000 meter race is grueling race that grinds for close to 30 minutes, and yet short enough to still feature fantastic sprints to the finish line. The finals at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics was no different…but this one has a bit of a stench.

Khalid Skah of Morocco was locked in a two-person duel with Richard Chelimo of Kenya with only three laps to go. Skah and Chelimo were quite familiar with each other. The year previously, Chelimo helped set the pace for fellow Kenyan, Moses Tanui, at the 1991 World Championships in Tokyo, which allowed Tanui to lengthen his lead against Skah, and eventually win gold. In a race for individuals, that is considered fairplay teamwork.

Boutayeb Chelimo Skah
Hammou Boutayeb, Richard Chelimo and Khalid Skah in the 10,000-meter finals of the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.


Back in Barcelona, at the 24-minute mark of the 10,000-meter finals, Chelimo was in the lead with Skah close behind. That’s when they came upon Hammou Boutayeb, the 10,000-meter gold medalist from the 1988 Seoul Olympics. Boutayeb was unceremoniously lapped, as Chelimo continued his lead over Skah. “This is one of the most exciting races I ever witnessed,” said one of the broadcasters. “The crowd has stayed behind. It’s 25 to 11 (pm) in the Barcelona, Spain and 60,000 people in the stadium still cheering on these two athletes.”

Suddenly at the 25;10 mark, Boutayeb swung out wide and passed Chelimo, sliding into the innermost lane, placing Chelimo in a Moroccon sandwich. Chelimo at that point is very likely peeved that Boutayeb, a man he lapped, is playing tactics, but the Kenyan decides to push ahead of Boutayeb. Skah followed closely behind. After the announcer said “that was the dirtiest trick we’ve seen all night,” Boutayeb again sprinted out front, playing the pacemaker.

Official trying to stop Hammouj Boutayeb
Official trying to stop Boutayeb.

And remarkably, as Chelimo and Skah pass Boutayeb, a Swedish official named Carl-Gustav Tollemar, came out onto the track in an attempt to grab and stop Boutayeb for nought. With one lap to go, Chelimo and Skah finally separated from Boutayeb and the two drove to an incredible back-and-forth sprint in the final 100 meters, ending with the Moroccan taking gold in a dramatic finish. Here’s how the announcers responded:

  • A: Listen to the crowd. They don’t like it.
  • B: I don’t like it. You don’t like it. The crowd of 60,000 people don’t like it.
  • A: They’re booing and whistling and throwing things here at Skah. It’s a bit unfortunate for him but he used Boutayeb for two or three laps and there will probably be a protest from the Kenyan group.

As it turns out, the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) quickly disqualified Skah, making Chelimo the gold medal champion. Skah was informed that he was disqualified because he was seen talking with Boutayeb during the race, and was thus colluding with Skah to beat Chelimo. When Skah heard that, he exploded. According to The Complete Book of the Olympics 2012 Edition, Skah “had harsh words for Boutayeb, whom he accused of being an ‘animal, an imbecile’ who didn’t even know how to read or write.” Skah explained that he was actually telling Boutayeb to “go away and stop interfering”.

The next day, the IAAF Jury of Appeal ruled in favor of Skah, stating in the end that they could not prove any illegal assistance provided by Boutayeb to Skah, and that “Chelimo’s progress had not been physically impaired.” While the rulebook was eventually amended to penalize actions like the one Boutayeb took, Chelimo remained the silver medalist.

Boutayeb had nothing to say to the media.

Mo Farah after his 5k victory at the london Anniversary Games
Mo Farah after his 5K victory at the London Anniversary Games.

Mo Farah had not competed much in 2016. While Farah, who won gold in both the 5,000- and 10,000-meter races at the London Olympics, as well as gold in both races at the 2015 World Championships in Beijing, the Brit had not run competitively all that much in 2016. And his results have been up and down as well.

But on July 23rd, returning to the stadium he won double Olympic glory, Farah restored faith in his fans, and gave hope to the possibility of being the first person since legendary Finn, Lasse Virén, to accomplish the double-double: winning gold in the 5K an 10K in two consecutive Olympics. At the London Anniversary Games, Farah won the 5,000-meter race convincingly, finishing well ahead with his trademark kick. His time of 12 minutes 59.29 seconds was his best since a tune-up to the London Games in June, 2012. In other words, his 33-year-old legs are feeling young.

“This is my best ever form heading into a major championships,” he is quoted as saying in The Mirror. “I am in good shape and it’s great to win before Rio. I just have to keep my feet on the ground as it’s harder to defend an Olympics than win it first time because people have had four years to work out how to beat you.”

Farah winning 5k at 2012 London Olympics
Farah is pictured celebrating his sensational 5,000 men’s final victory at the 2012 London Olympics

Four-time Olympic gold medalist, Michael Johnson, knows something about the challenges of repeating as champion, and so he knows Farah has to be wary of the competition. “It gets more challenging for Farah now he’s older. He’s dominated but the Kenyans are trying to figure out how to beat him. They are coming up with a plan and hoping to catch him on an off-day. It’ll be fun because it’ll make it even more competitive.”

The Kenyans agree. Farah’s 10,000-meter rival from Kenya, Bedan Karoki has said, “he has always beaten us in the last lap, but we have worked on that and hope to turn the tables against him this time in Rio. We are very good in lapping — indeed much better than him — but he waits until it matters most, and that is what we have worked on this time.”

Farah agrees, saying as much after his victory in the London Anniversary Games.

But while there is little evidence to show in 2016 that Farah has what it takes to win the 10K in Rio, at the very least, he is the clear favorite for the 5,000-meter race in Rio.