Bolt and track losers in the sport's Gong Show
Controversial rule knocks Jamaican out of worlds 100 final
Usain Bolt reacts to his false start disqualification in 100 meters. (Phil Noble / Reuters / December 16, 2013)
With his flashy speed and theatrical gestures, the Jamaican sprinter had deeply penetrated the sports world's consciousness since winning three gold medals, all in world-record times, at the 2008 Olympics. Bolt is bigger than track and field, exactly the outsized figure the sport needs in an era when it occupies a diminished place among the games people follow.
And then, just as Bolt was beginning the real show, he got the hook in track and field's version of the Gong Show.
That left the world to watch a 100 final as laughably absurd without Bolt as as some of the acts on that old daytime TV show.
It isn't Bolt but the officials responsible for the controversial rule that gonged him who need to get their act together, lest a similar fiasco occur at next year's Olympics, as astute observers like NBC commentator Ato Boldon have feared would happen.
The rules on the Gong Show made more sense from an entertainment standpoint than the two-year-old false start rule that led to Bolt's disqualification in the first global championship when the rule applied.
Yes, rules are rules, and Bolt was well aware of this one: one false start, and you're out.
And there was no doubt he beat the gun, as the video shows (click here.)
"While the (international track federation) is, of course, disappointed that Usain Bolt false-started in the final of the 100m, it is important to remember that a sport’s credibility depends on its rules, and they must also be applied consistently and fairly for ALL athletes," the federation said in the account of the race on its web site.
In fact, the only good thing one can say about what happened in the world 100-meter final is the federation did not protect Bolt by coming up with some reason for keeping him in the field.
"I didn't think they would kick him out," said Walter Dix of the U.S., the eventual silver medalist. "They have him on every (promotional) poster."
But the issue is not enforcement.
It's the rule, in effect the past two seasons.
Its impact was exactly the opposite of its intent, to produce a more dramatically intense show for television and live spectators.
How happy do you think worldwide broadcasters were about a 100 meters without Bolt, the sport's only current global superstar? Think the race lost a little luster, especially on a night when a headwind produced a pedestrian winning time of 9.92 seconds by Yohan Blake of Jamaica, whose achievement always will bear an unofficial asterisk:
*Won after Usain Bolt was disqualified for a false start.
"As much as I want to be on the podium, tonight is a sad night for athletics," said bronze medalist Kim Collins of St. Kitts & Nevis.
Under the previous rule for distances through the 400 meters, the field was allowed one false start. Any athlete false starting after that was disqualified.