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Thursday, August 18, 2016

the cruel 'false start' disqualification rule comes to play at Rio Olympics

Sakshi and then Sindhu have made the Nation proud… feeling happy.

At Rio, Americans Brianna Rollins, Nia Ali and Kristi Castlin swept the 100m hurdles in Rio on Wednesday. Rollins finished first in 12.48 seconds, followed by Ali in 12.59 seconds and Castlin in 12.61 seconds. It was the first time a nation swept the podium in the event.  For men it is 110 metres hurdles.  As part of a racing event, ten hurdles of 1.067 metres (3.5 ft or 42 inches) in height are evenly spaced along a straight course of 110 metres. They are positioned so that they will fall over if bumped into by the runner. Fallen hurdles do not carry a fixed time penalty for the runners, but they have a significant pull-over weight which slows down the run. 

Guadeloupe is located in the Leeward Islands, part of the Lesser Antilles in the Caribbean. Guadeloupe, like the other overseas departments, is an integral part of France. It is thus part of the European Union and the Eurozone, and its currency is the euro.  … and this post is about a hurdler from France Wilehm Belocian who is distraught by a harsh rule. The promising 21-year-old French hurdler was disqualified in round one of the 110-meter hurdles Monday night because he left the blocks a split second before the starting pistol sounded.

Belocian responded to the ruling with anguish, knocking over the nearest hurdle, kneeling on the wet track and burying his head in his hands before pounding the ground in frustration. His eyes were still red and tear-stained 15 minutes later when he blew past reporters in the mixed zone without talking. Fear of false starting is more prevalent among sprinters and hurdlers these days because of a controversial rule change that went into effect six years ago. Instead of charging a first false start to the field with the second disqualifying the offending runner, athletes are now ousted the first time they flinch early.

The zero-tolerance policy is intended to speed up the sport and prevent gamesmanship. Sprinters or hurdlers notorious for slow reaction times can no longer gain an edge by guessing when the starter’s gun will fire, a habit that slowed down meets and made it tough for TV networks working within a specific time slot.  This rule is cited as one of the cruelest rules in Sports.  So after years of long and hard training, a millisecond early start denied him the opportunity to compete further.

Under the previous rule, the entire field was given a warning in the event of a false start; anyone in the same race who jumped the gun a second time would be disqualified, even if it wasn't the first offender.  In 2010,  the International Association of Athletics Federations changed the rule to its current draconian level because of two reasons: Under the old rule, slower runners would purposely jump the gun to throw off everyone else's timing and give themselves an edge, and the sheer number of false starts slowed down meets and caused television broadcasts to run over their time slots.  So came the new harsh rule ~ and immediately hit the news as the great sprinter Usain Bolt, the fastest man on earth - false-started in the 100-meter final at the 2011 world championships in South Korea, earning a disqualification.  Bolt, somewhat ironically, was an initial supporter of the rule change and refused to criticize it after his own disastrous false start in 2011. Others think it's awful.

"The sport suffers when Christine Ohuruogu and Usain Bolt get thrown out of worlds," four-time Olympic medalist and NBC track and field analyst Ato Boldon said in 2011, via Yahoo Sports. "They changed the rule saying they were trying to save time on television, but that did not work. That has not been the case. The reason the rule hasn't been changed back is you have an organization that's trying to save face." Ohuruogu, who won 400-meter gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, also crashed out of the 2011 world championships, false-starting in a 400-meter preliminary heat. Still others say that today's top-flight track and field athletes have grown up with the rule and are used to it by now, and that today's races are much better without all the gamesmanship.

The IAAF seems unwilling to change the rule, though in 2012 it adjusted the definition of a false start, ruling that a sprinter's hands had to leave the ground or their feet need to leave the blocks for it to be considered a false start (previously, a mere flinch in the blocks could earn you one). Still, the chance remains that a hard trained athlete could see his Olympics end before the race even begins.

Rules are man made and sometimes hurt people pretty badly.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar.

18th Aug 2016

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