pair of patriotic volunteers have been accused of costing a Chinese runner her chance at victory in Sunday’s Suzhou Taihu Marathon by throwing off her rhythm while trying to hand her Chinese national flags during the race’s final 500 meters.
The Chinese runner, He Xianli, had been keeping pace with Ethiopian long-distance runner Ayantu Abera Demissie. However, things started to go wrong at one intersection near the finish line where a marathon volunteer attempted to give He a Chinese flag.
She declined to grab the flag causing the volunteer to hilariously chase her for some time in vain.
But then another volunteer appeared ahead, getting in the way of Demissie while handing He another Chinese flag. She only held onto the flag for a few seconds before dropping it on the road.
At this point, Demissie began to pull away from He, building a lead and soon winning the marathon by five seconds.
On Chinese social media, Weibo users have blamed He’s loss on the volunteers, accusing them of throwing the runner off her rhythm during the final stretch, while also criticizing the marathon for unprofessionally allowing its volunteers to blatantly interfere with runners for a cheap patriotic stunt.
Meanwhile, some nationalistic netizens have also criticized He, declaring that no matter what she should not have dropped the flag. Soon after the conclusion of the race, He took to Weibo to explain and apologize.
“I didn’t throw it away, the flag was completely soaking wet and my arms were stiff,” she wrote. “When my arms were swaying, it flew out. I’m very sorry and hope you can understand!”