RIO DE JANEIRO – Paul Chelimo won an Olympic silver medal, lost it through disqualification and won it again all in the space of about 90 minutes Saturday night.
As Paul Chelimo crossed the finish line in the 5,000-meter, he spread his arms wide in joy. While it was no surprise that British runner Mo Farah achieved the 5,000/10,000 double for the second straight Olympic Games, Chelimo was not expected to be chasing him down the homestretch.
Farah won with a time of 13 minutes, 3.30 seconds while Chelimo ran a personal best of 13.03.90, eclipsing his previous best time by more than 15 seconds.
But three racers, including Chelimo, were disqualified for lane infringements, moving 41-year-old Bernard Lagat of the U.S. whose time was 13:06.78, up from sixth place to the bronze medal.
Chelimo found out about the disqualification in an awkward way. He was being interviewed on NBC by Lewis Johnson, who told him the bad news.
#FreeChelimo began trending on Twitter. A little more than an hour later, he was reinstated and received his silver medal.
"I don't really know what happened but I am happy to be back in it and I'm happy to call myself the 5,000-meter Olympic silver medallist," Chelimo said.
Chelimo, 25, was born in Kenya. He came to the United States to attend college, competing at Shorter University in Rome, Georgia, then at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Chelimo took the fast track to U.S. citizenship by joining the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program in 2014.
Chelimo was the third qualifier for Team USA at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Track and Field, but almost didn’t make it out of his heat.
Chelimo said he mistakenly took a sleeping aid instead of a pain reliever before the race and had to drink coffee to try and shake off the effects.