BERLIN – Natalia Rodriguez of Spain was disqualified for tripping favorite Gelete Burka in a hectic finish to the women’s 1,500 meters Sunday at the world championships, giving defending champion Maryam Jamal of Bahrain the gold medal.

In a messy final, Rodriguez was scratched from the results list by the race referee for pushing aside Burka as runners jockeyed for position going into the final curve.

Maine’s Anna Willard, the first runner after the lead pack of four runners and just a few steops behind, was in position to exploit the situation.

But the Telstar graduate and native of Greenwood couldn’t find her patented final kick.

“I knew (the pace) would pick up dramatically,” Willard said. “I didn’t feel comfortable with the early pace, but I tried to put it out of my head. I was in pretty good position with 400 to go, and if I closed it out the way that I’m suppose to, then I’d be in medal contention.

“However, my last 250 didn’t feel so hot. I was trying to find that last gear, and it wasn’t there.”

The disqualification moved Lisa Dobriskey of Britain to silver and Shannon Rowbury of the United States to bronze.
Rodriguez, who had finished in a season’s best 4 minutes, 3.36 seconds, insisted she did nothing wrong.

“I ran well and I haven’t committed any fault,” Rodriguez said. “With 250 meters to go, Gelete went wide a little bit and she left open the inside lane. I tried to pass there. But when she noticed I was about to do it, she closed it in.”

Rodriguez elbowed Burka aside as she tried to squeeze past. The Ethiopian fell to the blue track, scrambled back to her feet and finished 10th. Rodriguez walked over to the Ethiopian, who was lying on the track after she crossed the line, and held her hand.

“I felt bad for her,” Rodriguez said. “She was favorite for the medal and I wanted to support her.”

Spain reviewed video of the race but opted not to submit an official protest and accepted the disqualification, IAAF spokeswoman Anna Legnani said.

Jamal, who was on the other side of Gelete when she went down, blamed Rodriguez.

“The Spanish girl definitely was in the wrong for passing that way,” Jamal said. “I’m very disappointed that Gelete fell behind. I’m certain that had that not happened she would have taken the top three.”

After crossing the line first, Rodriguez looked confused by what had happened. She grabbed a Spanish flag from the crowd, but did not celebrate what initially appeared to be her first world title.

“I was going to run around the stadium, but all the crowd was whistling,” she said. “It was a bit disagreeable.”

Her disqualification opened a spot on the podium for Rowbury. As happy as she was to get a medal, the American had hoped to run her way into it.

“It’s so unfortunate that there had to be a fall and a disqualification,” Rowbury said. “I would much rather be up here having placed third in the race.”


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