The drama hasn’t stopped in the athletics program at the 2023 Pan American Games in Santiago, Chile.
Despite Fernando Martinez crossing the finish line ahead of his competitors in a tight sprint finish, he would find his name at the bottom of the results list.
Next to his name, the two letters runners never like to see, “DQ.”
After crossing the line in 14:47.68, just one-one hundredth of a second ahead of Kasey Knevelbaard (14:47.69) of the USA, Martinez would be disqualified by race officials.
Video analysis showed Martinez blocking out Knevelbaar with his arm as the two sprinted towards the line. This led to Martinez’s disqualification from the race, and Knevelbaard would take the gold medal.
Should Martinez not have been disqualified, he would have become a two-time Pan American Games champion, after winning gold in 2019 at the Pan American Games in Lima, Peru.
Canada’s Charles Philibert-Thiboutot, who finished in third the last time he competed in the 5,000m at the Pan-American Games, was upgraded a step higher this year. Philibert-Thiboutot earned a silver medal after running a time of 14:48.02.
Altobeli Da Silva of Brazil, initially left off the podium after the four-man sprint, clocked a time of 14:48.18 and, due to Martinez’s disqualification, was upgraded to bronze.
The race was slow throughout the first ten minutes. Led for the most part by Emmanuel Bor of the USA, who ended sixth, it wasn’t until the final two laps that the jog became a race.
Competitors who had sat at the back for most of the race made some decisive moves that would split the group and leave only four to fight for the podium.
Philibert-Thiboutot spoke to CBC about how the end of the race heated up.
“It was a blistering last 400, which played to my strengths,” the Canadian said, “And I feel like my tactics were good; I was in a good position throughout, and I just missed a little bit, forgot to get gold at the end unfortunately.”
Philibert-Thiboutot will also take on the 1,500m later this week, which he considers his stronger distance.
Martinez spoke to the press following the event and believes it was a “natural movement” of his arms, but despite an appeal, race organizers maintained their decision.
“It was a natural act of the body,” Martinez said, “I am happy with my result regardless of whether they give me a medal or not. A disqualification is not going to take away the merit of having beaten them.”
With three days left in the athletics program at the 2023 Pan American Games, there are a number of event finals to tune in to.
Over the coming days, we will see the women’s 5,000m final, 200m final, and 1,500m final, alongside the men’s 1,500m final, 10,000m final, and 200m final.