Algerian takes gold in 1,500 run Men's version won by underdog Spaniard BARCELONA 92

August 09, 1992|By Bill Glauber | Bill Glauber,Staff Writer

BARCELONA, Spain -- One winner dedicated her triumph to a murdered prime minister. The other shook hands with a king and kissed a queen.

Last night, the 1992 Summer Olympics were drenched with political symbolism and national passion.

Hassiba Boulmerka of Algeria, a woman who breaks barriers of dress and performance in a country where Muslim fundamentalism is on the rise, burst into the lead going into the final turn and won the women's 1,500 meters in 3 minutes, 55.30 seconds.

As she circled the track in triumph, she kept pointing to her uniform and shouting the name of her country, while dedicating the race to the memory of Algeria's Mohamed Boudeif, who was killed June 29, presumably by Moslem fundamentalists.

"I pointed to my chest for Algeria," Boulmerka said after weeping on the victory podium. "A courageous Algeria is what I want. The most important thing is for my Algerian brothers to understand my message."

Moments later, another runner was led away in triumph. Spain's Fermin Cacho used a closing kick to turn a sluggish men's 1,500 into a celebration. He won in 3:40.12 and then --ed up to the royal box, where he shook hands with Spanish King Juan Carlos, and kissed the cheek of Queen Sofia.

"The king wanted to know how I could keep going," Cacho said. "I said, 'I saw an opening. It was my time to win and I could not miss out on it.' "

The final full night of track and field at the 1992 Summer Olympics was filled with terrific moments.

Germany's Dieter Baumann, running through a pack like a football player returning a punt, won the men's 5,000-meter gold in 13:12.52. Kenya's Paul Bitok was second and Ethiopia's Fita Bayisa was third.

Jan Zelezny of Czechoslovakia won his second consecutive javelin gold medal, breaking his Olympic record with a throw of 294 feet, 2 inches. Seppo Raty of Finland was second and Steve Backley of Great Britain was third.

Heike Henkel of Germany won the women's high jump gold with a leap of 6-7 1/2 . Galina Astafei of Romania took the silver and

Joanet Quintero of Cuba took the bronze. Tanya Hughes of Great Mills, Md., was 11th.

But two wonderful stories in the 1,500 overshadowed the program.

There was Boulmerka, who had trained in shorts in a country where most women wear veils. She had heard the insults of those too intolerant of a woman racing against the world. She had endured insults.

But last night, after she beat silver medalist Lyudmila Rogacheva of the Unified Team and bronze medalist Qu Yunxia of China, Boulmerka sought to smooth over differences she had with leaders of the rising tide of Moslem fundamentalism.

"What you say about fundamentalists, they are Algerian, first and foremost," Boulmerka said.

"I think this medal represents a great deal of encouragement for all young Algerians," she said. "This medal, we can all call upon all the young people to sacrifice themselves and put everything that they do into it. They should express themselves, and try to do their best."

Cacho did not have to become immersed in political turmoil after his victory. He was Spain's newest hero, and appeared to come from nowhere in the final lap of the men's 1,500.

Algeria's Noureddine Morceli was the favorite, but he ran a race that was tactically disastrous. Hemmed in by Kenya's David Kibet, Morceli couldn't find an opening to move to the front and was forced to try to move far outside to reach the lead.

He absorbed a spike wound on his right thigh and finished seventh.

That left a path for Cacho to complete his closing kick to win the gold. Rachid El-Basir of Morocco took the silver and Mohamed Ahmed Sulaiman of Qatar took the bronze.

As he took his victory lap, Cacho was greeted by cheers, songs and the unfurling of red and yellow striped flags of Catalonia.

Clearly moved, he bowed when he met his king.

"When the Games were awarded to Barcelona in 1986, I didn't think I'd be in the final, let alone on the victory stand," Cacho said. "But I trained hard for many years. And when I crossed the finish line, I realized how important this was."

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