By Andrew Maloney
© Copyright – 2012 – Athletics Illustrated
It was hard to watch the men’s 4x100m relay finals (even if you are not Canadian) for the very reason that it is painful to see anyone go from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows — as the Canadian men’s relay team did in a matter of minutes on live television. The beauty of athletics is that it is typically the most objective of sports and not reliant on the judgement of officials (good or bad) in determining winners or losers.
There are of course the rules governing the sport — many of which were put in place with good intentions but have unsavory side effects that we have seen just in the past year. The false start rule, which was put in place prevent the gaming of the starts in the sprint events, led to Usain Bolt’s disqualification a year ago and may been the only thing preventing him from getting the aggressive start he needed to (once again) shatter a world record. The rule on running in lanes has also been tightened up from its more relaxed standard at one time of being able to step outside of the lane inadvertently. This too has led to disqualifications of Wallace Spearmon and others in the 200m in Beijing four years ago.
The problem as both Christopher Kelsall of Athletics Illustrated and Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun have both pointed out is that while the Canadians unequivocally violated this most stringent standard, so too did the Americans and perhaps even the Trinidadians.
Yes, it is frustrating but the real question is do we want to crown winners in this sport on the track or off of it? Since it appears we are often relying on fallible human judgement to decide winners and losers, the IAAF would be well-served by reverting back to a looser interpretation of the rules regarding false starts and lane violations.
There was much hand-wringing in Canadian circles after the performance at the 2011 World Championships in Daegu, but a quick analysis of where Canada is trending in athletics after the London Games is encouraging.
Consider that after performances in 2004, where we had only twenty-two athletes, eight finalists and no medals, as well as 2008, where we had thirty athletes, twelve finalists and one medal, the 2012 Olympics saw forty-five Canadians competing and eighteen finalists leading to one medal. As we have already described above it could have been even more.
There were some pleasant surprises (Damian Warner in the decathlon, Derek Drouin’s high jump medal, Cameron Levins) as well as some near misses (Dylan Armstrong, shotput and Jessica Zelinka, 4x100m relay). Every major championship is going to be a because the margin of error is so small, but the importance of the macro trends of increased Canadian Olympic participants and finalists should pay dividends.
Andrew Maloney graduated from the University of Tulsa with a Masters of Business Administration / Juris Doctor of Law
Represented Canada in 800m and holds two national records in the indoor and outdoor 4x800m relay
Coached six years in the NCAA at the University of Tulsa and currently at the University of Guelph
Hockey agent with Maloney & Thompson Sports Advisors in Guelph, Ontario