I like athletics and have been enjoying watching the World Championships in Daegu and, like many of you no doubt, I was shocked to see Usain Bolt crash out of the 100m final for false starting. I don’t agree with the new false start rule (any false start from anyone and you’re disqualified) nor did I agree with the previous rule which was changed since I used to run as a schoolboy. Do beaurocrats have nothing better to do than tinker with stuff that isn’t broken? Suffice to say the rule change ruined the 100m final for me today as it probably did for many others. Tyson Gay who, ironically, was in the commentary box had mused about exactly this scenario in The Guardian (Tyson Gay Says New False Start Ruling Will Ruin Sprints) in June suggesting that ejecting Bolt from a race could ruin the sport.
It will certainly be interesting to see what the repurcussions of this will be. Bolt has been a gift to athletics over the last few years making it interesting and sexy again after the debacles of drug taking and abuse over the last couple of decades. I am sure you have your own opinions about the new false start rule and about Bolt’s ejection from the race but that is not what interested me.
Let me tell you what happened incase you did not see it…
At the start of the race, Usain Bolt was his usual happy self, waving to the cameras, posturing and pretending to slick his hair back. He pointed at the athletes to the left and the right of him and signalled that they had no chance. You may or may not like this but it is part of his act and has certainly opened up the sport to a whole new group of supporters. Under starter’s orders the sprinters went down to their blocks and we held our breath. What was Bolt going to produce? How fast would he run? How much would he win by? Could he posssibly be beaten?
And then the unthinkable happened. Bolt rocked in his blocks. He didn’t set off but it was a clear movement and would register as a false start. The gun went off and the sprinters rose to start the race. The others powered for a few paces before being recalled by the false start gun but Bolt was already powering down. He knew he had false started and he was already pulling his shirt off in disgust. He knew he had blown it. He knew he had messed up. He knew it was all over.
In the commentary box he was criticised for pulling his top off, effectively owning up to his mistake. They said that he was Usain Bolt and he should have argued that a light flashed, a noise distracted or something else to excuse him… anything to give the officials a chance to reinstate the biggest star in planet athletics. But he gave them no such outer, he gave them no wriggle-room, just walking off and then sitting just out of site of the arena.
Now you may argue that we should do “what it takes” to “win”. You may argue that Bolt missed a trick and could have leveraged things to his advantage being such a big star. You may argue that he was shell-shocked and had he been thinking rationally he would have tried to get back in.
But I’m not so sure. Usain Bolt is the best sprinter in the world. Ever. Period. You don’t get that good without taking 100% responsibility. 100% responsibility for your fitness. 100% responsibility for your training. 100% responsibility for your mindset. 100% responsibility for your success. And 100% responsibility for your mistakes.
In this world where far too few take responsibility for their mistakes, I thought it was refreshing and uplifting to see him take it on the chin. He screwed up so he loses out. Next time he will get it right and next time he will no doubt win.