Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Boughera El Ouafi
El Ouafi was born near the town of Sétif, joining the French military regiment there later (at the time, Algeria was a French colony). One of his superior officers noticed El Ouafi's good sportive abilities, and decided to send him to a military sports competition in France. He made a good impression there, and was allowed to enter qualification for the 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris in the marathon event.
Boughera El Ouafi managed to qualify, and completed his first Olympic marathon, running for France, in seventh position. This good result allowed him to prepare more extensively for the next Games, held in Amsterdam. In the 1928 competition, he ran behind the leaders for the first three quarters of the race, overtaking them some 5 km before the end. He was never caught by any of the other runners, and finished first, 26 seconds ahead of second-placed Manuel Plaza from Chile.
After his surprise victory, El Ouafi toured the United States. However, the money he earned with this trip disqualified him as an amateur, causing him to leave the sport, and he opened a cafe in Paris. El Ouafi remained forgotten until 1956, when another Algerian, Alain Mimoun, also won the Olympic marathon. Reporters went out to search the other Algerian who had won 28 years earlier, and found him back a pauper.
El Ouafi was killed three days after his 61st birthday by members of the Algerian Liberation Movement, after he had refused to support them.
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