Netizen Voices: “Fixed Matches, Rigged Races … What’s Going on with Chinese Sport?”

Beijing’s half-marathon is under investigation after three runners from Kenya and Ethiopia appeared to allow a Chinese runner to win. The odd ending of the race saw Willy Mnangat and Robert Keter of Kenya and Dejene Hailu of Ethiopia wave Hu Jie of China past them in the final stretch as they noticeably slowed down. Videos of the finish went viral both in China and abroad. The Beijing International Running Festival, the events organizer, and the Beijing Municipal Sports Bureau have both opened investigations  into the incident. On X, formerly Twitter, @whyyoutouzhele shared video of the bizarre finish: 

After footage went viral on Weibo, netizens criticized the lack of sporting spirit evident in the finish

酋长的部落格:What a failure. Future actors will have to undergo some training, to make it look a bit more realistic …

Jp歸來仍是少年:Wholly devoid of sportsmanship.

二淋淋5: Fixed matches, rigged races … what’s going on with Chinese sport?

防骗小达人:Young sir, run a bit to the left. Don’t run off-track now! Keep it up, young sir, you’re almost at the finish line. Wow! Quite impressive, young sir—you won the race!

猫头叶一:The national soccer team: “Like I’ve been saying all along—it’s not my fault!”

飞天猪Jason:I thought only soccer matches were fixed in China. I never imagined marathons could be, too.

莫言兔毛毛:Even running marathons is beset with “bureacratism.”

TIM_TianX:This will indubitably be the most embarrasing “win” of He Jie’s career. Such a major sponsor, such a high-profile race, and he trampled all over the spirit of the competition. What a bozo. [Chinese]

Widely circulated memes mocked Hu Jie for his seemingly unearned “win”:

He Jie and three Kenyan and Ethiopian runners near the finish line as one runner points the way forward for He Jie

He: Relax, they haven’t caught up. The championship is mine. 

Mnangat: Brother, speed it up a bit. We can’t run any slower!

Bikila: We’ll all ‘pump the brakes’ at the same time. [Chinese]

At first, Chinese media celebrated He’s apparent win. The Beijing Evening News shared a triumphant shot of He crossing the finish line one second ahead of the African runners in a seeming photo finish. Global Times originally reported on He’s win with scant mention of the odd finish, noting only “skepticism” over the finish. But in follow-up reports, Global Times wrote that the race was “mired in controversy.”

It remains unclear what really happened. Willy Mnangat originally told The South China Morning Post that he’d allowed He Jie to win because “he is my friend.” Mnangat later told the BBC that he’d actually been employed as a “pacemaker,” to help He Jie set the Chinese half-marathon record. (He missed the mark by a minute.) On Twitter, Mark Deyrer, an expert on Chinese sports, speculated that the likely explanation was that race sponsors had hired the Kenyan and Ethiopian runners to act as pacemakers, but wanted to conceal that fact to allow He Jie’s finish to seem more dramatic: 


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