The sovereign city state of Monaco marked the site of the Monaco Diamond League on Friday, July 22, 2011. With big-name track stars Jamaica’s Usain Bolt, America’s Bernard Lagat, and Kenya’s Brimin Kipruto participating in events, there was one event taking place on the track that eclipsed everything else. Even with a record-breaking performance by one British runner, everyone viewing the track and field event could only remember the fisticuffs between two French runners.
Despite setting a British record by recording his eighth consecutive victory in the 5,000 meter with a time of 12 minutes 53.11 seconds, Mo Farah’s accomplishment was forgotten by many due to the fight between two French athletes in the 1,500 meter steeplechase.
In the Olympic 1,500 meter event, Medhi Baala finished in ninth place less than four second behind the gold medal winner Silas Kiplagat of Kenya. Almost two seconds later, Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad, the Olympic 3,000 meter steeplechase silver medalist, finished in eleventh place. Despite not being close to winning, sparks soon started to fly as soon as Baala and Mekhissi-Benabbad talked to each other moments after the conclusion of their race.
The two runners, who also happen to be French teammates, said some comments to one another, with Baala claiming to have said comments of comfort. However, after a pat on the head by Baala to Mekhissi-Benabbad, Baala soon head-butted his French comrade and Mekhissi-Benabbad reacted by swinging his elbows wildly back at him.
Only seconds later were the two men separated by others on the track. However, after the confrontation following the event, a war-of-words took place between the two in the media zone. After Mekhissi-Benabbad appeared to slap Baala, Baala responded by saying “I’m going to break you in two.”
Less than 30 minutes after the incident, Baala did apologize for what happened and expressed his disgrace, saying “At such an event, in front of a full stadium, it’s a shame to give a bad image of athletics. We’ve just given athletics a bad name and a bad representation of North Africans.”
Baala was born in Strasbourg, France and has won numerous major medals, including two European titles. Considered one of the best French middle-distance runners of all time, he won the bronze medal in the 1,500 meter race at the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics.
Mekhissi-Benabbad, the younger of the two French runners, is of Algerian origin and mainly competes in the 3,000 meter steeplechase. A silver goal medal winner at the 2008 Olympic Games, he also won first place in his specialty event at the 2010 European Athletics Championships in Barcelona, Spain.
Unfortunately for Farah and Bolt, instead of viewers remembering their strong showings, the Monaco Diamond League will be remembered for the scuffle between Baala and Mekhissi-Benabbad.
YouTube Video ‘” Fist Fight at Track Meet ‘” from Universal Sports
French runners trade blows in extraordinary incident
Mo Farah’s record-breaking run overshadowed by fight on the track
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