This year’s paralympic games may not have a lot in common with the recently concluded Olympic games considering the paltry ticket sales and funding mishaps, but one famous sight from the Rio Olympics 1500m race finish line has found it’s way to that of the Paralympics thanks to Tamiru Demisse.
Feyisa Lilesa was fondly dubbed the bravest Olympian ever after he crossed the finish line of the Olympic games 1500m race in 2nd place with his hands crossed over his head. His simple symbolic gesture had been a protest against the Ethiopian government and a sign of solidarity with the Oromo people, who are still protesting against the Ethiopian government reallocating them from their land.
Ebisa Ejigu replicated the move about a week later after running 2:30:40 to win the SSQ Quebec City Marathon; he formed an ‘X’ with his arms as he crossed the line into the finisher’s zone.
Ethiopian Paralympic runner Tamiru Demisse has, therefore, become the third Ethiopian runner to execute what the world has come to know as a rather dangerous protest. After Tamiru Demisse came in second in his 1500m T13 race for visually impaired runners, he echoed the gesture made by the two previous runners; the symbolic ‘X’ symbol over his head as he crossed the finish line.
After Feyisa Lilesa’s protest, a crowd-funding campaign was set up for him to assist in seeking asylum. Within a day over $100,000 was generated and Feyisa is now in the United States of America.
The Paralympic games 1500m race shot up to occupy a space beyond sports and medal counts because of Tamiru’s protest but it was also notable for yet another reason; the top three runners, Algeria’s Abdellatif Baka, Ethiopia’s Tamiru Demisse and Kenya’s Henry Kirwa, all ran times faster than the winner of the Olympic 1500m race.