As much as sports fans hate when referees and officials become the focus of a story, we hate it even more when questionable rules drive the headlines. Think about the Tuck Rule Game that sent the New England Patriots to the Super Bowl in 2002. Or the Jeffrey Maier Game that helped send the New York Yankees to the 1996 World Series.
At least with refs, you can put a face to your frustration. With a rulebook, all you can really do is burn the pages.
For the second time in its first two days, the Track & Field World Championships involved an incident in which a defending gold medalist sprinter was disqualified from their event because of a false start. The new rule—in which a competitor is DQ'd on their first false start—was instituted two years ago under some controversy and much debate. But now that it has claimed established stars Christine Ohuruogu (Great Britain) and Usain Bolt (Jamaica) on one of the sport's biggest stages, it will surely come under review again.
Other notables from Day 2:
Trey Hardee (USA)—From the media to the marketing to the momentum, everything was set in place for Ashton Eaton to become a breakout star at the World Championships by winning the decathlon. Hardee, the defending WC gold medalist, was almost an afterthought.
Over the course of the two-day battle of attrition, however, Hardee stayed consistent if never spectacular. On the second day he posted a career-best javelin throw (68.99 meters), a season-best discus throw (49.89 meters) and finished a close second to Eaton in the 110-meter hurdles on his way to a gold-medal win that was a bigger surprise than it should have been.
Yohan Blake (Jamaica)—Bolt's loss was Blake's gain. The 21-year-old became the youngest-ever WC gold medalist in the men's 100-meter dash, winning relatively easily over Walter Dix (USA) and Kim Collins (St. Kitts) in 9.92 seconds.
LaShawn Merritt (USA)—The storyline surrounding Merritt was whether or not rust from a two-year suspension would be too much to overcome. But the two-time WC gold medalist and '08 Olympic gold medalist in the men's 400-meter dash turned in 2011's fastest time in the world (44.35 seconds) during his qualifying heat and the fastest time ever in a WC qualifying heat.
The only negative spin the announcers could muster was to wonder if Merritt had possibly shot his wad too soon. But he doesn't have to run again until Day 3 of the meet.
Valeriy Borchin (Russia)—Because hardly anybody will mention, remember or care who won track's most overlooked event, I'll give Borchin some shine here. He won his second straight WC gold medal in the 20-kilometer race walk in 1:19:56, adding to a golden streak he started at the '08 Olympics.
Borchin finished about 30 seconds ahead of silver medalist Vladimir Kanaykin (Russia), who edged Luis Lopez (Colombia) by only 11 seconds. I have to commend the latter two for stifling the instinct to break into a little hop/run near the end, which could have resulted in disqualification.
Jason Richardson (USA) & Aries Merritt (USA)—The Big Three is now the Big Five.
All of the focus going into the 110-meter hurdles competition had been on Liu Xiang (China), David Oliver (USA) and Dayron Robles (Cuba). But after the first round of qualifying heats, two more medal threats have been added to the mix: Richardson posted the fastest time in qualifying (13.19 seconds), while Merritt (no relation to LaShawn) beat Robles in their heat.
Oscar Pistorius (South Africa)—"Blade Runner" got his first obstacle out of the way, qualifying for the men's 400-meter semifinals with a time of 45.39 seconds. Pistorius came across the line a tenth of a second behind medal contender Chris Brown (Bahamas) and he beat USA champion Tony McQuay.
Usain Bolt (Jamaica)—Granted, the 100-meter dash isn't even his favorite or best event. And yes, he has two other chances (200 meters, 4x100 relay) to win gold medals and make history at this World Championship meet. But the 100 is the glamor event of every track meet, and Usain Bolt is track's glamor athlete.
Bolt was running so well in the prelims, he basically threw away a certain gold medal before he even got a chance to start, false-starting himself into a DQ during the much-anticipated final.
Now the debate has become about whether the one-false-start rule should even exist, but for now it does, and Bolt is its latest casualty.
Ryan Brathwaite (Barbados)—The defending men's 110-meter hurdles gold medalist was eliminated in the qualifying heats, finishing fifth in his race. Brathwaite was never really in the discussion all season as he struggled to run times equal to the world's elite, but it's still not common for a defending champ to exit so quietly.
Tony McQuay (USA)—After finishing second in the NCAA Championships and first at the USA Championships in the men's 400-meter dash, McQuay went into the WC a smart pick to make the medal podium in a wide-open field. McQuay looked OK about midway through his first qualifying heat, then he appeared to get trapped in a pit of quicksand and eventually pulled up with a leg cramp.
Kylie Hutson (USA)—The USA champion in the women's pole vault failed to qualify for the WC finals, knocking down the bar twice in her three attempts at 4.50 meters and hitting it all three times in her attempts at 4.55 meters.
Universal Sports announce team—Two days in and they've already had to admit what we already knew: that they're watching footage from inside a studio somewhere on this side of the ocean. While I do appreciate the honest approach over ESPN's regular attempts to pretend like they're really at an event (e.g., the World Championships in basketball), I'm sure that wasn't the plan for the Universal team to let the secret out that early.
Then, during the women's 100-meter dash heats, one announcer pointed out Ivet Lalova (Bulgaria) "in the orange and pink," when Lalova was clearly wearing green and red. So apparently some of those studio monitors are having issues with the tint.
At least Universal still has Ato Boldon, whose analysis of the Usain Bolt incident was thorough and thought-provoking.
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