It was only a matter of time.

Ever since the IAAF brought in its new zero-tolerance false start rule in 2010, there’s been concern it would affect the top stars in the marquee event. That’s exactly what happened on Sunday in Daegu, South Korea.

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Jamaican world-record holder Usain Bolt false started in the 100m final at the world championships, resulting in an automatic disqualification. He was left to watch as his countryman and training partner Yohan Blake won the race in 9.92 seconds into a strong headwind. The 21-year-old is the youngest 100m world champion in history.

As unfair as it is to Blake, the story centred around the lanky Bolt. His body language indicated that he knew immediately that he had jumped the gun. There was no protest.

The false-start rule has been in place for the greater part of two years, but until now, the sport’s biggest star had never been a casualty. Even American Walter Dix, who claimed silver in 10.08, couldn’t believe it. “I didn’t really think they were going to kick him out,” Dix told the Associated Press. “How can you kick Usain out of the race?”

Reaction has been swift from fans and athletes. Many have criticized the IAAF’s policy for being too harsh, while others reminded observers that the rules aren’t new, and Bolt has had plenty of chances to compete under the current regulations. The IAAF issued a statement on its website in defence of its rules: “While the IAAF is, of course, disappointed that Usain Bolt false-started in the final of the 100m,” the statement read. “It is important to remember that a sport’s credibility depends on its rules, and they must also be applied consistently and fairly for ALL athletes.”

Bekele flops in men’s 10,000

If it hadn’t been for Bolt’s blunder, track fans may well have been calling out Kenenisa Bekele for not showing up ready to race. Bekele, who hasn’t raced since January 2010 after suffering a calf injury, toed the line Sunday as the defending champion in the 10,000m. However, the Ethiopian world-record holder struggled, grimacing through the first half before dropping out with 10 laps remaining. He never looked like the Bekele who won four world titles at the distance.

Britain’s Mo Farah appeared to be on track to become the first European winner of the 10,000m since 1983, but Bekele’s teammate Ibrahim Jeilan chased him down in the final few metres, winning in 27:13.81. Farah attempted to outrun the competition with a blistering 1:54 final 800m, but he may have gone a bit too soon, fading to second in a gutsy 27:14.07. Eriteria’s Zersenay Tadese, another pre-race favourite was fourth in 27:22.57. Galen Rupp of the United States was the top North American, finishing in seventh place.

Did Blake flinch first?

Robert Johnson of Letsrun.com has broken down the video of the 100m final, pinpointing a moment where it appears that Yohan Blake actually moved first, before Usain Bolt jumped out of the blocks. You be the judge.

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2 Comments

  • darcy says:

    The reaction time for a visual stimulus is longer than for an auditory stimulus, ie greater than 100ms (if I remember correctly 130-150ms), you would have to time code that video to see if Bolt reacted 120ms after the flinch. If the flinch takes place within 120ms, the flinch never set him off, he was going before the flinch.
    The flinch is mildly interesting, but the instantaneous flinch-false start is a red herring!

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