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REPORTING FROM RIO DE JANEIRO
Lisa Dillman, Los Angeles Times
Feyisa Lilesa of Ethiopia was nearing the finish line at the men’s marathon on Sunday morning when he crossed his wrists above his head.

The silver medalist did it again. And once more at the end of an extraordinary news conference — standing alone and posing for photographers — in which he explained his show of solidarity with protesters in his homeland, Ethiopia.

He explained that the gesture was in protest of the killing of the Oromo people, saying he stands with the resistance movement, adding that the government was “killing our people.”

Lilesa was asked about the consequences of his protest. He said maybe “they kill me…if not they kill me, they put me in prison.”

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Later, it was mentioned that the International Olympic Committee frowned upon political protests/gestures at the Games.

Said Lilesa: “They can’t do anything. It’s my feeling.”

Irish Times

No event carries more historical prestige than the Olympic marathon, which is partly why Feyisa Lilesa couldn’t let the moment pass without making some statement about it.

In finishing runner-up to Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge, Lilesa crossed the line with his hands crossed above his head – a sign of silent support for the Oromia region of Ethiopia, which earlier this month saw a violent government crackdown.

For Lilesa – who won the 2009 Dublin in what was his marathon debut – this was no throwaway gesture: he now fears for his safety and possibly even his life on his returning to Ethiopia, including, he says, the safety of his wife and two children.

Such political protesting is outlawed by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), although Lilesa also repeated his gesture during the medal presentation.

The most recent unrest in Oromia, on August 5th, which saw protesters demand social and political reforms, including an end to human rights abuses, reportedly ended with the killing of 90 protesters, in three days, by Ethiopian security forces.

Feyisa’s brave gesturing was matched by his brave run, although there was no denying Kipchoge, who surged ahead inside the last 10k to win in 2:08.44, improving on the bronze and silver won over 5,000m in 2004 and 2008 – with the American Galen Rupp, also trained by controversial coach Alberto Salazar, holding on for bronze.

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