Meet Four Paralympians Who Would Have Taken Gold at the Able-Bodied Olympics

Abdellatif Baka of Algeria and Yeltsin Jacques of Brazil lead the pack in the men's 1500 meter T13 final at Olympic Stadium during day 4 of the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games on September 11, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.Matthew Stockman / Getty Images

Remember how obsessed you were with Rio just a few short weeks ago? How incredible the athletes seemed, how much you admired their training regimen (and breakfast habits), how Bob Costas become the most consistent and comforting presence in your life?


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Well, that Olympic high doesn’t have to fade. Now is the perfect time to realize that the Paralympics are equally impressive and, fine, tear-inducing. Abdellatif Baka, a visually impaired runner from Algeria, just raced 3:48.29 in the men’s 1500m track and field event. His time was good enough for Paralympic gold, but also, unbelievably, would have nabbed Olympic gold in Rio.

Michael Phelps (R) of the United States leads Chad le Clos of South Africa in the Men's 200m Butterfly Final on Day 4 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium on August 9, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

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Oh, and the event’s silver, bronze, and fourth-place finishers, all of whom are also visually impaired? Each of their times was also fast enough that they would have claimed Olympic gold as well. The top four finishers in the Paralympics T13 class beat Matt Centrowitz’s gold medal–winning time of 3:50.00. Yes, this is as incredible as it sounds. Athletes who are in the T13 class have the least severe visual impairment — they’re able to run without a guide, as opposed to the runners in the T12 class, but consider this: each of them has a visual field of less than 20 degrees in radius.

Watch the incredible race here:

The Rio Paralympics, which kicked off September 7, almost looked like an afterthought just a few weeks ago, with organizers worried about flagging ticket sales that hovered around 12% of the venue’s total capacity. This is all kinds of crazy, especially when you consider the athletes are on par with, or, in the case of the 1500m, even more talented than those at the much more crowded Olympic games. (A worthwhile aside: If you haven’t already seen the Paralympics’ visually stunning commercial on YouTube, watch it now. We’ll wait.)

Luckily, fans in Brazil who were initially slow to buy tickets have started turning out; the Paralympics had a sold-out Saturday and have moved 1.8 million tickets, making it more successful overall than the Paralympics in Beijing, which sold 1.7 million tickets. London’s Paralympics in 2012 still holds the record for moving 2.8 million tickets.

Here, then, are the names and finishing times of the four Paralympic athletes whose wins would have earned them gold at the able-bodied Olympics:

Paralympic Men’s 1500m Track and Field Final, T13 Class

Gold: Abdellatif Baka (Algeria): 3.48.29

Silver: Tamiru Demisse (Ethiopia): 3.48.49

Bronze: Henry Kirwa (Kenya): 3:49:59

Fourth place: Fouad Baka (Algeria): 3.49.84

If the lightning-fast race has you intrigued, find out how to watch the Paralympics in your country through the closing ceremony on September 18.

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