At first, I had qualms about the “no-false” rule in athletics. It’s not that hard to re-start a sprint race, unlike in swimming where the process of climbing up a pool is relatively more cumbersome. The old rule seems aptly just: the second athlete who false starts gets disqualified. But then again, rules are rules. The implementation of the no-false start policy is marginally better for TV coverage, as it facilitates a quicker turnover of events.
But what happens when an official is at fault?
When I was watching the Adidas Grand Prix a few weeks back, I was appalled by the quality of the official starters. The pause before the retort of the gun was too long. Naturally, this unsettled the sprinters more – the 110m high hurdlers in particular. The sprint hurdles is a highly technical event that puts emphasis on rhythm. Once you have these consistently long pauses in the start, the hurdlers become unsettled.
Aries Merritt, the newly-minted American record holder, was shown a red card because of an early twitch in his foot. He was allowed to run under protest, but false-started again (I won’t delve into this running-under-protest issue. I have to do my research first). The third attempt to restart the race was just ugly, with Jamaican Hansle Parchment twitching his foot. By this time, David Oliver was visibly pissed. He shook his head as he made his way back to the starting line. Jason Richardson, the 2011 World Champion, sat down on the track and gave out an exasperated smile.
When the race finally got underway, everyone’s rhythm was thrown off equilibrium. Parchment clipped the second hurdle and lost his balance, dropping out of the race. Dwight Thomas crashed into the final barrier and fell flat on the track. Both incidents were scary, from the vantage point of a sprint hurdler. It’s a good thing nothing serious happened to Parchment and Thomas.
The Jamaican even managed to finish the race despite his nasty crash. My hat is off to Thomas for doing a Derek Redmond.
What was billed as a match up between Merritt, Richardson and Oliver turned into a farce. Richardson won the event in 13.18s, with Jeff Porter (13.26s), the promising Cuban Orlando Ortega (13.35s), and Oliver (13.37s) rounding up the next three.