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Having watched the World Relays, I have a few comments to share with The Sports Examiner and subscribers:
Mixed gender relays: refreshing, exciting, fun. Loved the 2x2x4 mixed, the shuttle hurdle mixed, and the 4×400 mixed. Lots of fun, requires strategy, intelligence, and comradeship. We need more of these “revolutionary “ ideas, and they’re becoming more common on all levels of competition.
The one false start rule.
Historically, the rule was that all competitors would get one false start.
This rule was eventually changed to one false start given to the field, with elimination from the event for a second one, regardless of the perpetrator of the first false start. The reason for this rule was to end the practice, prevailing at the time, of attempting to “steal” a start. It wasn’t unusual to witness three or more false starts in each heat of the shorter sprints and hurdles. This would cause meets to fall behind schedule, annoying athletes, coaches, and spectators.
With the advent of Title IX, where female participants grew in the number of events and competitors, the rule was changed to the current “one and done” on the high school and colleges levels, thereby keeping meets on schedule.
Eventually, the rule (one-and-done) was adopted on the international level. With electronic starting blocks detecting the slightest twitch, athletes would be disqualified for slight twitches, barely visible to the naked eye.
And there’s the rub:
While there is merit in the one-and-done rule, in terms of moving meets along on schedule, we have witnessed the elimination of the biggest track star in the 21st century, Usain Bolt, being eliminated in a World Championship final; and in the recent World Relays, the elimination of the Italian team in the mixed hurdle relay final, due to a false start by their lead-off runner.
With Jamaica dropping out of the final of that race (due to an injury), that left only two teams, the USA and Japan in a World Relays Final. Not a very exciting competition, only two teams in an international final.
These are two examples of the stupidity of the one false start rule. It is destructive to a sport in need of attracting fans. It makes no sense in championship FINALS and/or highly selective invitationals. How attractive would basketball be if players were fouling out with say, 1,2, or 3 personal fouls? Or baseball going to one strike, to move the game along. Ridiculous examples? Maybe, but you get the point. We want to see them play.
So, I propose maintaining the one-and-done rule in all heats, quarters, and semis (where the likelihood of a stolen start would be greatest); but allow the previous allotment of one false start on the field in championship finals and selected invitational finals (such as the Diamond League).
This would allow paying spectators the opportunity to see the best of the best, and forgive a twitch in a final. The athletes deserve it, the fans deserve it, and the sport would be better for it.
I’ll save my other pet peeve for another letter, but here’s a hint-hint: I hate staggers in any race longer than 200 meters. Thanks for listening.
~ Ron Brumel (Los Angeles, California)