RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — With one shoe on and one shoe off, Etenesh Diro raised a big cheer at the Olympics on Saturday with a gutsy finish in her 3,000-meters steeplechase heat.
Initially outside the qualifying places, the Ethiopian was rewarded — following a protest by three teams, including her own — with a place in Monday's final.
This is what happened:
Diro was cruising along comfortably in the pack with a couple of laps to go when she got tangled up with some other competitors and her right shoe came half-off. For precious seconds, the Ethiopian athlete knelt on the track and tried to pull the shoe back on.
It just wouldn't go and runner after runner passed her. Finally giving up on it, Diro ripped the shoe off completely and threw it away, took a few steps, then removed her right sock, too.
She ran the rest of the grueling race, the best part of three laps, with just one shoe on and her right foot bare, negotiating the barriers and the water jump, and overtaking a number of rivals as the crowd urged her on.
She finished seventh and fell to the track, exhausted and clutching her foot. She'd thought she'd missed out.
But following protests by the Ethiopia, Ireland and Jamaica teams, Diro, Ireland's Sara Treacy and Jamaica's Aisha Praught were advanced to the final.
Diro was clipped from behind, but her shoe issue also caused a pile up of runners behind her, with Praught taking a tumble because of it.
"I went down pretty hard. You brace because you don't expect that," Praught said. "All I know is the girl in front of me stopped to put on her shoe. She stopped right in front of me. That's when I fell ... You don't expect that."
Praught said "brake lights" on the runners ahead of her would have been helpful.
As for her own shoes, Praught said: "I tie them very tightly."