They say lightning does not strikes twice, however do not tell that to the French and their star athletes. Last week’s Diamond league track meet in Monaco saw a rare explosion of violence between two competitors. At the end of the 1500 French middle distance stars and Olympic medalists Mehdi Baala and Mahiedine Mekhissi Benabbad clashed in a an unusual display of blows which – though shameful to a degree – added a sense of comic relief prior to the intensity of the upcoming World Championships in Dageu, South Korea.
The aforementioned lightning striking twice comes from the fact that the fight was initiated by Baala’s head butting of Benabbad who responded in kind by shoving Balaa which only escalated the exchange. This is eerily reminiscent of 2006’s incident of French midfielder Zinedine Zidane cracking Italian player Marco Materazzi at the World Cup final with his forehead. Each situation was preceded by tense words by the two sides and resulted in the first blow being struck with the cranium.
Unknown though what precisely was said to create the conflict, it appears that in French athletic circles their sports stars are apparently trained to not walk away from verbal taunts and to make the first hit be done with the old noggin rather than their fist. Both athletes have been placed on suspension and may have risked their trips to the World Championships but in return gave viewers an opportunity to witness an occurrence on par in rarity with the coming of Haley’s comet and the humor of an episode of Family Guy; two rail thin grown men swapping blows that would make most elementary school girl fights look ferocious. This has provided ample evidence with Benabbad’s wild swings and Baala’s childlike dodges as to why distance runners are made for running and not bred for careers in the ring.
Despite their images being linked to a minor scuffle for the remainder of their professional lives, it does not threaten the fact that both men have been excellent athletes and brought running glory to the French nation. We though must ask why the French can’t take to fighting on the battlefield but rather save their martial duties for sporting competition. Maybe if Napoleon or De Gaulle had used their heads in combat a bit more they would have been more successful like their athletes.