On Saturday, Kenyan-American runner Paul Chelimo crossed the finish line second in the men’s 5000 meter (5K) race. However, shortly after, he was disqualified for stepping outside the track. NBC then chose to blindside Chelimo with the news. After making him wait several minutes, NBC’s reporter sprung the news of his disqualification on him during a live interview.
He had not learned that the IAAF had disqualified him and his time of 13:03.90 — about 15 seconds better than his previous best — for infringement. When the interview began, Chelimo learned he had lost it.…“That was the first time I realized I was disqualified. I didn’t know. Just getting the news from the television that I was disqualified, that was the most heartbreaking thing in my life. It’s really something. I couldn’t even wrap it up in my mind.”
That is just incredibly poor form from NBC. Meanwhile, on the other end of the classiness spectrum sits another American runner named Bernard Lagat. As a result of Chelimo’s disqualification, as well as two others, he moved all the way from a sixth-place finish to the bronze medal position. However, despite benefitting from this adjustment, Lagat expressed his displeasure with the result.
“To disqualify people when they didn’t gain an advantage is not the right spirit,” [Lagat] told reporters after the race. “I like to know I earned my medal.”
Now that is the true spirit of the Olympics, and an incredibly classy statement. Ultimately, the USA Track and Field federation successfully protested the decision, and Chelimo’s silver medal was restored to him. Meanwhile, Lagat may have finished off the podium, but he earned wonderful marks in sportsmanship.