LONDON – The London Paralympic main stadium shivered on Saturday as the 80,000 spectators applauded simultaneously to injured Djibouti runner Houssein Omar Hassan when he stumbled across the finish line in men’s 1,500m-T46 heat.
Hassan, Djibouti’s sole athlete at the London Paralympics, came last in the race in 11 minutes and 23.50 seconds, over six minutes behind the second-to-last finisher, let alone the winner.
Nonetheless, no one regarded the 35-year-old Hassan as a loser.
It was the first time for Djibouti to take part in the Paralympic Games, and the 1,500m-T46 was the only event that Hassan entered.
Unfortunately, Hassan, without his right arm, injured his foot right before the heat. If he had quitted, no one would blame him. But he decided to complete the race.
As other finishers began to be interviewed by journalists or take a rest when he was jogging alone on the track. Yet he was not lonely as the 80,000 spectators in the stadium all stood up and clapped hands rhythmically for his heroic performance as he neared the finish.
The race was so exhausting that his vest and shorts were all wet. In the mixed zone, Hassan gasped and was too tired to drink the water provided by volunteers.
“Finish, finish,” Hassan, who can speak just a little English, repeated the same word.
This would be the unforgettable 11 minutes for Hassan, for Djibouti, for all the people at the scene, and for the Paralympics.