From a distance, the visually impaired men rounding the track for the T13 Paralympic 1500-meter race might have been running in the Olympics. They jostled each other occasionally and tore along the track at top speed.
If they looked super-fast, that's because they were. The first four finishers clocked better times than the Olympic gold medalist had in August.
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The T11-13 classes at the Paralympic Games in Rio are for runners and jumpers with visual impairment. Of the three classes, T13 athletes have the least severe visual impairment. However, eligibility still requires that they have a visual field of less than 20 degrees radius, according to the International Paralympic Committee. That's also the limit for legal blindness.
In the 1500-meter race, the jostling wasn't necessarily about angling for a better position in the pack, it was partially because the runners had trouble seeing. With two laps to go, Brazilian Julio Cesar Agripino dos Santos led the group and then suddenly stumbled, nearly going off the track. He managed to hang on and stay in the race, though.
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As the crowd roared, the men crossed the finish line. First came Algerian Abdellatif Baka, with a Paralympic world record of 3 minutes and 48.29 seconds. Then came Ethiopian Demisse Tamiru, followed by Kenyan Kirwa Henry. Abdellatif's brother Fouad Baka finished fourth at 3 minutes and 49.84 seconds. All four runners finished faster than American Olympic gold medalist Matthew Centrowitz, whose winning time in August was 3 minutes and 50 seconds.