Tyson Gay says new false start ruling will ruin sprints
• American says sprints could be farcical if star runners ejected
• Automatic gun needed, says Gay
- guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 16 June 2010 18.19 BST
Tyson Gay Tyson Gay believes athletes should have a greater say about rule changes. Photograph: Mike Blake/REUTERS
Tyson Gay says the new false start rule, implemented by the global governing body from this season, could ruin the sport. The second-fastest sprinter in history warned that major championships such as the world or Olympic 100m finals could turn into a farce if a star such as Usain Bolt were to be disqualified under the one-strike rule.
“I don’t like it one bit,” said the American record holder, who withdrew from the much-anticipated head-to-head clash with Bolt at the Diamond League meet in New York last week because of a hamstring problem. "It doesn’t make sense. Our sport is changing but I don’t think the athletes have enough say in it.
“If Usain Bolt had false-started in New York [in fact the Jamaican was also absent through injury] everyone would have been upset, and they’d have been booing, and wanting him to be let back into the race. It takes something like that to happen and I think it would be a wake-up call. If it happened at the Olympics or World Championships next year – without Usain Bolt the race is going to have an asterisk to the side. It just doesn’t make sense.”
The world and Olympic champion in the women’s sprints, Shelly Ann Fraser, was the latest to fall foul of the rule when she was disqualified from the Diamond League meet in Rome last week. Fraser, who claims never to have false-started in her entire track career, left the stadium in tears. “It happens to the best of us, but what a rule,” wrote Fraser in her online diary.
“It was ridiculous,” said Gay, of Fraser’s dismissal. “Everyone was coming to see her run, she made a mistake, flinched or whatever, it’s ridiculous, it doesn’t make sense. It’s taking away from the sport.”
Under the new rule, one false start will see an athlete disqualified. Under the previous system the entire field was presented with a warning if an athlete false-started – only on the second false start would anyone be disqualified – but critics became concerned when some athletes started using the system tactically to psych out the competition.
“I’m hearing all different stuff – like the false start is taking up TV time,” said Gay, “but it’s our time when we’re on the track, you understand what I’m saying? That’s the time we need to get set, we need to get relaxed. People don’t understand the pressure that we’re under when we have thousands of people watching us, we have family members we’re trying to take care of, we have goals we’re trying to reach, it’s a lot on our minds, so things happen, mistakes happen, accidents whatever. It doesn’t make sense, one false start, one flinch.”
The 27-year-old former world champion believes that the only way to change the system for the better is to have a complete overhaul of the mechanics of the start line. “They need some sort of automatic sensor or automatic gun so that it goes off the same time every time. We have different blocks, we have different people holding the gun, it’s ridiculous,” Gay added.