Sun | Feb 25, 2018

Foster's Fairplay | Give Harrison ticket to Rio

Published:Tuesday | July 26, 2016 | 12:00 AM
Kendra Harrison of the United States poses next to the world record time she ran to win the women's 100m hurdles Diamond League meet in London last Friday.

Foster's Fairplay, over the years, has felt quite justified in holding on to some firm beliefs. The view, as expressed in so many track and field discussions in recent times, is that rules are what they are meant to be. As such, they have to be recognised and respected.

In any given situation, even external to sports, if what is agreed for the guidance and practice of all concerned is subjected to tampering or attempts to twist to suit a particular situation, real problems often come to life.

There are team-selection policies in the USA track and field system that are intractable. They bear no contradiction or counter-talk. If an athlete wishes to be chosen for international competition, the course to be taken is absolutely lucid. They must go to the trials, compete, and place one, two or three.

There can be no question or argument as to who should have or could have made it instead of whomever else. World records, world leads and other elite qualifications are of no moment. Talk about hard and fast, this system of selection is that and more.

Now, here comes a turn of events, which, one can say, was not unthinkable. The American sprint hurdler Kendra Harrison, after a set of sterling performances in 2016, goes to the London Diamond League and stuns the world and, indeed, herself.




Her 12.20 seconds went under the existing world record by one-hundredth of a second. It was held by the Bulgarian Yordanka Dankova, set in 1988, at a time when there were all sorts of doping questions surrounding Eastern bloc athletes.

The BBC commentator's quip after Harrison sent it crashing spoke volumes of the 28-year-old controversial issue. Suffice to say, he gave thanks that it was now history.

Harrison's competitive season started in late April with a 12.36 personal best, world lead. Another shot - one-tenth of a second faster - came within a month's time. With a menu of 11 races completed so far, it has reached the juncture of the fastest time ever recorded by anyone, anywhere.

What irks is that her 12.62 was only good enough for sixth place in her country's uncompromising trials. Inherent in that was the disappearance of Rio from her horizon.

Now, Foster's Fairplay is not about to create a campaign to restructure the qualifying format at the US trials. Any attempt to let in some athlete who, for whatever reason, is omitted, is fraught with problems, some unpredictable. It is in recognition of that why their federation demands the one-two-three as sacrosanct and irrefutable. Foster's Fairplay, all that considered, begs that it not be molested.

However, this is not to say that Harrison - and any other blessed with an attention-grabbing performance - should be denied a lane at the Olympics or any other elite global event.

The Olympics has been described as the Greatest Show on Earth. Agree or not, it must, for the title to be contemplated, attract and include athletes who have performed in the manner and at the level that Harrison has. Not to would be a travesty, a misrepresentation of sorts.




The owners of the spectacle are the International Olympic Committee (IOC). In that body is vested the authority to effect changes. They have not been reluctant to do even the unorthodox in the past.

Case in point: still no gold medal declared in the women's 100m at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. The logical choice, after a series of drug-related disqualifications of podium-position poachers is Jamaica's Tayna Lawrence.

The right thing was not done in respect of that Sydney situation. Let it happen this time around. The recently crowned world record holder, Kendra Harrison, deserves to be in Rio as a competitor. Why is the offer of a wild card only exercised in the province of the subordinate, the International Association of Athletics Federations? This is in direct conflict with justice.

Foster's Fairplay calls on the IOC to reach out to Kendra Harrison with a royal handshake and create an opportunity to compete at what you contend is the highest level of sports participation.

To further build credibility, it must be the proper path to pursue.

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