One and done, that’s what we fans of the sport call the “new” false start rule. Simply put, it means that if you false start you’re done, thrown out of the race. There’s no “oops”. No do overs. You can’t wobble, flinch or shake. You can’t say you heard a camera click, it was too noisy near the track, or the plane flying overhead distracted you. Your day is done. It’s over. One and done.
Since the inception of this “new” rule two years ago I’ve been saying that it is a disaster waiting to happen. That one day it was going to bite the sport “where the sun don’t shine”. That day is today! Because today Usain Bolt became the most well-known casualty of “one and done” when he false started out of the final of the men’s 100 meters! The world record holder. The man who cruised through his qualifying rounds. The favorite to perhaps win yet another sprint double, was somewhere other than on the track as the race he has dominated in the last two Major championships was run without him. Not because he lost during the rounds, but because he had an “oops” moment at the wrong time. And as the gun went off, the sport shot itself in the foot, as its marquee athlete walked off the track defeated by perhaps the dumbest rule in sport!
Sadly I saw it coming, as on day one there were several false starts – just none quite this big. First there were false starts in the decathlon 100, but the rules are different for them – no one and done. Then in the first round of the women’s 400 we lost the defending Olympic champion, Christine Ohuruogo (GBR), but she had a poor season and was low profile, so not much noise was made. But I made note after these occurrences that at some point in this meet something bad was going to happen.
During the morning session we had more false starts in the decathlon 110 hurdles, but they don’t have the same rules – they get a second chance. Then in the heats of the men’s 400 we had another false start and Nigeria’s Abdou Samma was tossed – but he didn’t even have a qualifying time and it was said that someone should have taught him the rules. Then as the afternoon session began another Brit was lost to the rule as in semi one of the men’s 100 Dwain Chambers was tossed out to a false start – he knew the rules – and that sparked a little interest. Then shortly thereafter, in the 3rd semi of the women’s 400 Joanne Cuddihy (IRL) was lost to a false start! Which lead us to the “shot heard round the world” as Usain Bolt became the rules most famous casualty.
Not that’s a LOT of false starts – and it’s only day two of the meet. I doubt if any of them were trying to cheat – because that’s one of the primary reason we’re told that we have the false start rule, to stop the cheaters. The other reason is to speed up the sport – because false starts cost time and TV doesn’t’ have time to waste. Well, I don’t think Usian Bolt was trying to cheat, because he was clearly the dominant athlete out there on the track today. And if it’s about TV, well television LOST its biggest drawing card when Bolt walked off that track!
For as long as I can remember, for as long as there has been modern track and field, the rule was that if you false started you got another chance, and if you false started again you were ejected from the race. And that was fair, fair to the athletes, fair to the fans, and fair to the sport. Because frankly, while yes there were those times when an athlete or two might try to get an advantage out of the blocks, there were infinitely more times when it was noise, nerves, the flinch of someone besides you, a plane overhead, or infinitely more reasons why an athlete might leave the blocks a hair early! And the RIGHT thing to do was to reset the athletes and let them try again. After all, it’s the athletes that EVERYONE came to see.
But somewhere along the line, there were a few too many false starts in a race or two and the meet went a little too long and the sport decided it needed to do something. It started with the NCAA (whenever have THEY had the best rules for anything) who went to one and done. Then for some reason so did the National High School Federation – because we have to nip this cheating thing in the bud early! Then two years ago the IAAF adopted the rule, because you know those sprinters are hurting the sport with their false starts. Ironically I will tell you that there are more false starts in the hurdles than the sprints because it is so much more important to get to that first hurdle, well first! But for two years I, and others, have said it’s a disaster waiting to happen. And today lightning struck Bolt!
I’ve ranted enough, but today was important to the history of the sport I believe. And I hope that this will wake up the rule makers of the sport – and that we go back to what actually worked for a hundred years or more. And that in the future we make rules because they are what’s right for the athletes and the sport, not because we are trying to manipulate something as innocuous as time!
Now the 100 was THE key final on the day. Everything was scheduled to build to this moment. Ironically at the start of the year it was supposed to be a summit meeting of the three fastest men in history – but none were in this final! And as I predicted yesterday the semifinals were brutal. In semi one Chambers was lost to DQ, and Trini Keston Bledman failed to advance. Semi two saw recent 9.85 man Richard Thompson (TRI) and Asafa Powell replacement Michael Frater (JAM) eliminated. And semi three saw the end of the road for Justin Gatlin (USA) and NCAA champion Ngoni Makusha (ZIM). A lot of speed was watching this final from the stands. At the gun it was Yohan Blake (JAM) and surprise finalist Kim Collins (SKN) bursting from the blocks. 40 meters out Walter Dix (USA) & Christophe Lemaitre gave chase, and Blake burst from the pack – running away to a clear win! Dix caught and out leaned the flying Collins in the final stages to finish off the day’s events. A bit anti climatic with the loss of Bolt.
The 100 overshadowed everything else on the day. Brit Mo Farah lost a thrilling dual in the 10,000 as he was beaten not by Kenenisa Bekele (ETH) who ended up dropping out of the race, but by unknown Ethiopian Ibrahim Jeilan, as this pair and Imane Merga battled over the final two kilometers of the race. It also overshadowed a rather thrilling decathlon competition as Tre Hardee (USA) became a reapeat champion and teammate Ashton Eaton had to run for his life in the 1500 to take silver by 4 points ahead of Cuba’s Leonel Suarez.
In other field event finals, Brittney Reese (USA defended her long jump title and Yanfeng Li (CHN) won the women’s discus.
In earlier qualifying in the men’s 110 hurdles all the top men came through unscathed including Dayron Robles (CUB), Liu Xiang (CHN), David Oliver (USA) and Jason Richardson (USA). Third American Aries Merritt also looked very sharp in his opening round.
The men got underway with the 1st round of the 400 meters with early world leader Rondell Bartholomew(GRN) getting back under 45 seconds winning heat one in 44,82 with Reny Quow (TRI) right there in 44.84. Then in heat three defending champion LaShawn Merritt threw down the gauntlet with a sizzling 44.35 that left everyone shaking their heads. Merritt looked like the man that ran 43.75 in Beijing and it’s going to take something special for someone to stop him from defending his title this week.
In the semis of the women’s 400 defending champion Sanya Richards Ross got a scare as she struggled in 3rd place in her semi and only made it through to the final as the last qualifier on time! The other top candidates looked sharp including Allyson Felix (USA)also saw the prime candidates get through as Allyson Felix (USA), Francena McCorory (USA) and Amantle Monstsho (BOT) were all semi winners.
I apologize for the lateness of this post but after getting up at 2:00am to watch it all I had to take a nap! Tomorrow should be exciting with semis and finals in the 110 hurdles, and finals in the women’s 100 & 400.
Men’s Pole Vault
Women’s Shot Put
Men’s 110 hurdles