Ahmed Boughera El Ouafi (1928)

Amsterdam had already tried to host the Olympic Games of 1920 and 1924 before being selected for the 1928 appointment. It would be the first appearance of the Olympic flame, and also the first time a 400-metres track was used in athletics. They would see Paavo Nurmi win a ninth gold medal, in the 10000 m, and Germany return to competition after being banned in the last two Olympic occasions.

Ahmed Boughera El Ouafi was born in Ouled Djellal, Algeria, when it was a part of France. At a young age he joined the French army, where he was noticed because of his athletic capabilities. He qualified successfully to run the Olympic marathon of Paris in 1924, where he finished in a promising seventh position. While working for Renault he focused his attention in the next Olympics, to be hold in Amsterdam four years later.

In the marathon start line in Amsterdam there was no clear favourite among the 69 runners present. There was no much story until mile 23, when we find a small group leading the race, formed by El Ouafi, running for France, Plaza from Chile, Ray from the United States, Marttelin from Finland and Yamada from Japan. At that point Ray took a brief advantage, although soon neutralised by Yamada. His lead would also be short as he started suffering cramps. At that point El Ouafi and Plaza opened a small gap with Marttelin, before El Ouafi was able to break free shortly before entering the stadium, to win the gold medal in 2.32.57, 26s ahead of Plaza (who improved his sixth position in the Olympics of 1924), with Marttelin completing the podium.

El Ouafi would win the only gold in athletics for France in 1928, and the first one for the African continent. After his victory he toured the United States to race against… animals, only to be excluded on his return from competition by the French Athletics Federation because of his professionalism.

With the money he won in this trip, opened a café, although with no much success. He went into oblivion until 1956, when another French-Algerian runner won the Melbourne Olympic marathon, and was found by reporters as a pauper. He would die in a still non-clarified shooting in a café, gaining attention only in recent times, in an effort to restore his athletic achievements defending the colours of France.



Victorious El Ouafi (Amsterdam 1928)
El Ouafi entering the Olympic stadium (Amsterdam 1928)

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