Heartbroken. Frustrated. Angered. Even as an English teacher I am somewhat at a loss to describe the way I felt when witnessing Usain Bolt’s untimely exit from the 100 metre final of the World Athletics Championships last week in Daegu, South Korea. A collective gasp could be heard across the entire stadium as the fastest-man-on-Earth made a lightning fast exit from the race, leaving not only a bitter pill for spectators, organisers and athletes to swallow but also added fuel to the ongoing debate surrounding the fairness of the ‘no false start’ rule that immediately disqualifies any athlete that jumps the gun.
The IAAF introduced the ‘one strike and you’re out’ rule at the beginning of 2010 out of concern for athletes who would ‘deliberately’ false start in order to put off their opponents. But isn’t this what makes sport interesting to watch? Tennis players do it all the time – what else is the double fault for? And let’s not even mention the Williams sisters’ outrageous clothing or Sharipova’s shrieking! AFL footy players are infamous for sledging each other… and if you’re McGinnity – well; he might just sledge your mother, too. But the fact is gamesmanship and tactics like these are part of the game.
Not only is the current false start rule unfair, the previous false start ruling was also unfair. It reinforced that a field of competitors would receive a warning if any given athlete left the blocks early, however, if another athlete false started (regardless of whether or not they were the first offender), then they would be the one red carded and disqualified. Disgraceful!
Why can’t it just be as simple as: ‘One warning – If you do it again – you’re out!’? The reality is – it was this simple. Pre- 2003 the rules were that if you false started more than once – you would be disqualified. However, this ruling was often resented, particularly when there were multiple false starts and subsequent eliminations.
On Sunday, the IAAF will meet to decide the fate of this dubious rule. The IAAF has made the wrong decision and in the lead up to the 2010 London Olympic Games, where all eyes will be on athletics’ international governing body. They need to develop a policy that respects the athletes’ commitment to their sport. They need to develop a policy that gives paying spectators what they want. They need to develop a policy that is fair and just.
At the end of the day, Usain Bolt is the fastest man in the world and last Sunday he was unable to defend this title. Thousands of paying spectators missed out on seeing Bolt run into the history books – and it is just not right! Lucky for him eventual winner and fellow countryman Yohan Blake could only hold 9.92 seconds, a far cry from Bolt’s lightning fast 9.58 world record time. Thank God.
Follow this link to see the moment of earth-shattering disappointment: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3hB09daYLmk