Sprinters: Fix start gun at World Indoors

ISTANBUL (AP) - The starting gun in Istanbul killed the hopes of some of the world’s fastest runners.

With an echo causing havoc in the sprint events at the world indoor championships, Jamaican sprinter Lerone Clarke failed to advance to the semifinals in the men’s 60 meters after a starting reaction of nearly a half-second.

American hurdler Kristi Castlin also failed to show her best. She was disqualified from her 60 hurdles heat after stopping in her tracks because she believed someone else had false-started.

She wasn’t the only one.

“They taught us back there, don’t listen for the echo. Go for the first sound you hear,” said American sprinter Justin Gatlin, who won his 60 heat in 6.64 seconds. “There is a little bit of inexperience by coming up and saying there is a false start next to me. Your job is to run, not to be an official.”

Castlin and Jamaican rival Vonette Dixon both thought there was a false start in their heat, and neither completed the race. But because they ran early in the evening session, their mistake was a lesson to everyone else.

“I was sitting in the blocks and I heard the noise on the blocks, but also in the area, so I heard two start calls,” said Sharona Bakker of the Netherlands, who ran in the heat after Castlin. “Because the start before - the American girl, I saw that - I thought, the only thing I can do is run.”

Jamaican team official Fitzalbert Coleman said they considered lodging an appeal on behalf of Dixon but stopped because reaction times coming out of the blocks were slow for everyone. He did, however, have a word with officials.

“When you try to speak to them, they say as far as they are concerned the system is fine,” Coleman said. “The acoustics could be better.”

Competition organizers later said no races would be re-run.

“The false start equipment has been checked. It was confirmed that it is working properly,” the organizers said in a statement. “All athletes were competing under the same conditions.”

That won’t be any consolation to either Clarke or Castlin.

Clarke, who was unbeaten this winter, had been one of the favorites to take the world title from British rival Dwain Chambers. But after a reaction time of .420, he ended up fourth in his heat, finishing in 7.05 seconds and eliminated from the next round.

Chambers had less trouble, getting out of the blocks in .171 seconds and winning his heat in 6.65.

“It is funny because you can hardly hear anything from the speaker. It makes it very difficult,” Chambers said. “You hear a light, really small echo from the speaker. Then you hear the sound effects and that is what is catching people.”

Nesta Carter, who also ran in the men’s 60, said the problem needed to be resolved.

“You got to fix this gun,” Carter said after advancing to the semifinals. “There’s an unfair advantage because some people hear the gun before others and then it bounces back.”

Right from the first sprint of the evening it became clear that there was something strange reverberating through the arena.

World 100 hurdles champion Sally Pearson ran in the first heat of the night and got out to a fast start but questioned whether or not to keep going.

“I thought someone had false started. ‘Oh crap, that wasn’t me, was it?’” said Pearson, who won her heat in 7.85 seconds. "But the girl next to me was starting so I just kept going myself.

“I don’t know what they’re going to do about that because it’s really confusing.”