Beijing Half Marathon uproar: Kenyan says he let China’s He Jie win race ‘because he is my friend’

Mnangat was shown looking at He, pointing to the finish line and waving his hand, signaling him to move forward. He walked past the trio and they made no effort to respond.

Asked by the Post if he had let him win, Mnangat replied “yes”.

“He’s coming to Kenya and I was pacing for him at the Wuxi marathon, so he’s my friend, right,” Mnangat said.

Six hours later, Mnangat changed his story, saying he was a pacemaker. However, his bib was the same as Him’s and did not say “pace”, as is common practice.

He Jie (fifth from left), with Willy Mnangat (second from left) and Robert Keter (third from left). Photo: Xinhua

Organizer Beijing Sports Competition Management and International Exchange Center said an investigation had been launched, while the world governing body said integrity was paramount.

“We are aware of images circulating online of the Beijing Half Marathon and understand that an investigation is currently being carried out by the relevant local authorities,” World Athletics said.

“The integrity of our sport is World Athletics’ highest priority. Although this investigation is ongoing, we are unable to provide further comment.

Chinese sports expert Mark Dreyer said “it’s just not done at the elite level.”

“It’s one thing to cross the finish line together, hand in hand, in a display of sportsmanship,” Dreyer said, “but that’s not what happened here, where the African trio clearly let He Jie win.

“He doesn’t need this charity. This makes a mockery of the competition and undermines its previous achievements.

On Chinese and Western social media, many said the race had been discredited.

“I’ve been running marathons for several years, but I’ve never seen anything like this,” one Weibo user commented, while others called for the four runners’ results to be overturned.

“I thought football was dirty, but turns out the whole sports world is dirty,” said another.

“This will undoubtedly become the most embarrassing championship in He Jie’s career,” one article read.

Karen Lin, a Chinese agent who represents Mnangat, declined to answer questions about the race.

“(It’s) very common for African professional runners to compete in the biggest provincial races around China – but it’s very unusual for them to let a Chinese runner win so obviously,” Dreyer said on X.

“(The) most obvious explanation here is that race fees for Africans were guaranteed and/or a bonus was offered to allow the local runner to win,” he added.

“Otherwise, competing for prize money among themselves on the Chinese circuit can be a cruel game, with barely enough on offer to pay their fees.”

Mnangat said no one told him to let him win and he received no financial reward for it.

“I have never participated in a half marathon before, so this time I wanted to set a personal best,” he told Chinese state media.

“I just finished the Wuxi Marathon not long ago, so I wasn’t in my best competitive condition. If I had been in the same condition as during the Wuxi race, I think my performance would have been better.

His time of 2:06:57 in Wuxi last month was a national record.

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