4 Stripped of Medals After Half Marathon's Weird Finish

Investigation found He Jie's pacemakers at Beijing Half Marathon weren't registered
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 16, 2024 1:00 AM CDT
Updated Apr 19, 2024 11:02 AM CDT
Chinese Half Marathon Finish Was Very Strange
He Jie, the men's marathon record holder in China, wearing number 1, runs alongside African competitors during the Bejjing Half-Marathon 2024 in Beijing on April 14, 2024.   (Ju Huanzong/Xinhua via AP, File)
UPDATE Apr 19, 2024 11:02 AM CDT

"All trophies, medals and bonuses" awarded to the top four finishers in the Beijing Half Marathon "will be recovered," organizers said Friday after an investigation into the race's unusual finish, per the BBC. Three African runners waved China's He Jie ahead of them at the finish line so He finished a second before the others. The organizing committee determined four runners were hired as pacemakers for He, including one who failed to finish, but none were officially registered as pacemakers, per the AP. The committee disqualified all four top finishers and apologized "that we did not discover and correct the mistakes in time at this race." The main race organizer, Zhong'ao Lupao Sports Management Co., has lost its right to host the next Beijing Half Marathon.

Apr 16, 2024 1:00 AM CDT

Things got a little weird at the end of the Beijing Half Marathon on Sunday, when He Jie, a member of China's marathon team, crossed the finish line—after apparently having been waved ahead by the three African runners who'd been running with him the whole time, and who seemed to slow down and stay behind him at the end. He won the race with a time of 1:03:44, followed by Dejene Hailu Bikila of Ethiopia and Robert Keter and Willy Mnangat of Kenya, who tied for second with 1:03:45, NBC News reports. The finish is now under investigation, the BBC reports.

The strange ending got a lot of attention—Mark Dreyer, author of a book about China and sports, said on X that the African runners "clearly" let He win in what appeared to be a "tacit agreement," and called the whole thing "extremely odd." In another post, he explained it was "highly unusual" for African runners to "let a Chinese runner win so obviously," hypothesizing that there must have been a financial incentive for the African runners to do so.

story continues below

Viewers were similarly baffled by the footage, which went viral online, and the Beijing Sports Bureau and race organizers both said they were investigating the situation. Mnangat later admitted to the South China Morning Post he let He win "because he is my friend" and that he was not compensated for doing so, nor was he asked to do so. He later claimed, however, that he and the other two African runners were "pacemakers" trying to help He beat the Chinese half-marathon record (which he did not manage to do). The other two second-place finishers have not commented publicly. (More China stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.