Sat | Sep 23, 2017

Follow the Trace | What if Bolt false-starts? - Rule unfair to sprinters

Published:Tuesday | June 28, 2016 | 6:00 AM
Jamaica's sprinter Usain Bolt grimaces while crossing the finish line of the men's 100 metres event, at the Golden Spike athletic meeting in Ostrava, Czech Republic, Friday, May 20.

What would the Jamaican authorities do if world spring king, Usain Bolt, false starts in the 100 metres event at the Jamaica national trials?

This question has been asked quite flippantly and quite often in recent times, but lest we forget that Bolt is human and could very well jump the gun in the cut and thrust of what is expected to be a very competitive trials.

Should Jamaicans then all on queue sing that old clichÈ 'the rule is the rule' and then merrily proceed to disqualify the world's greatest sprinter ever and the sport's biggest superstar from competing in the blue-riband event at this his farewell Olympics Games?

I am completely surprised and flabbergasted by the number of Jamaicans who have quickly responded with a resounding YES to the notion of Jamaican officials at a trial event aimed at selecting our strongest team and our best athletes and with the option of offering a pardon on multiple technicalities, in that context deciding to stick to the letter of the law, by stopping Bolt from competing in the biggest race at his last Olympics.

This lone voice remains on the top of the mountain shouting NO! NO! NO!

The Jamaican officials (specifically the starters) should exercise the discretion allowed them - to overrule a Bolt false start and do what is legal and necessary to facilitate Bolt lining up in his blocks in the 100 metres in Rio.

Bolt has earned that privilege.

Outside of having the natural desire like billions of people around the world to see the biggest star in the sport competing on the biggest stage, there is also the premise that this 'no false start rule' in and of itself is stupid, inconsistent, impractical, and inhumane.

 

ZERO TOLERANCE

 

It is zero tolerance for track athletes only. High jumpers, long jumpers, triple jumpers, shot putters, discus throwers, and hammer throwers in all other areas of athletics competition are allowed multiple bites of the cherry.

Why the double standard for track athletes?

This rule implies that they are perfect beings who should not make mistakes. If we all agree that this rule is essentially unfair, then there should be no moral and ethical dilemma on the horizon in agreeing that to disqualify Bolt at the trial level when options are available to do otherwise would not be in the interest of the wider good.

The use of Bolt, by this writer, as an example to highlight the folly and irrational nature of this rule is not coincidental. If, God forbid, Bolt should false-start at the National Trials, then good sense should prevail and he should be ushered back into his blocks and effectively on to that plane to Rio.

If he goes to the Olympics and false-starts, that would be the big dance, not a trial or selection process. The rule, as silly as it is, would then have to be applied. Although if the starters at the Olympics decide to reinstate the big man on a technicality, we would all be happy.

When all is said and done, though, sports is entertainment and the entertainers are the stars of the sports. At the moment, there is no bigger star than Bolt. He transcends Jamaica and he transcends athletics. For us here in Jamaica to even contemplate starving the entire world of an Olympic farewell to Bolt based on this silly rule would be unthinkable.

Going forward, however, maybe it would be a blessing in disguise that Bolt false-starts in the first round of the 100m and the 200m at the national trials.

Maybe it would set off the right alarm bells and finally open the eyes of the relevant authorities, ultimately setting things in motion that would rid the sport of this imbecilic and unjust rule.