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If you read nothing else today, read this article by Andrew Steele, British 400m runner.

These last few days, I have been writing about the wonderful achievements of athletes in Daegu. Well, that and the failures. But what never gets mentioned is the athletes that would have given everything to race, jump or hurdle alongside their contemporaries but can’t, for one reason or another. A lot of athletes have set-backs.

In 2008, Andy Turner’s lottery funding of £12,000 a year was cut off, based on the assumption that he would not win a medal in the 2009 World Championships at the 110m hurdles. At the time, he said “It’s going to be tough but I have to do it as I’ve still got dreams of winning a medal in the Olympics,” and that he would have to look for an outside sponsor or start a part-time job. The idea of not competing did not cross his mind, despite financial concerns. Competition, after all, drives all sportsmen. Turner had the drive to continue competing, despite the new hurdles he had to jump (pun intended).

Turner had to bounce back from what was probably a sporting all-time low and start achieving in order to get his funding back. Here are some of his achievements (and setbacks) from 2009, a year after he lost funding:

  • Fourth in 60m hurdles in European Indoor Championships
  • Won 110m hurdles in European Team Championships
  • Eliminated in heats at the 2009 World Championships in Berlin, carrying an injury
  • Fifth in the 2009 IAAF World Athletics Final
And here are a list of achievements from 2010:
  • Won 110m hurdles in European Team Championships
  • Won 110m hurdles in 2010 European Athletics Championships
  • Won 110 hurdles in the Commonwealth games
And today, Turner was rewarded with the Bronze medal at the World Championships in Daegu, proving once and for all that he was more than deserving of Lottery funding.
Turner’s obstacles have been different in nature to that of Steele’s. Steele’s struggle with glandular fever means that he is not just struggling with his finances (he believes that, like Turner, he will lose his funding), but he is struggling everyday with his body. An athlete’s most important tool is, naturally, his body.

Steele’s article proved a timely reminder: The athletes at Daegu have worked incredibly hard to get where they are. But they are also incredibly lucky not to be plagued by injury and illness. It’s amazing to watch their performances, but it is very easy to forget the ones that have pushed themselves to the limit trying to achieve the same things.

I’m going to give Steele a thought when I’m back watching athletics on Thursday. I hope he gets well soon.
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With tomorrow’s athletics merely the walking races, I thought this would be a great opportunity to discuss some of the most pivotal moments in the last few days of the Athletics World Championships in Daegu.

As a fan of all British athletes, I was slightly disappointed to see Jessica Ennis win the Silver medal, and not retain her title from Berlin two years ago. Nevertheless, Tatyana Chernova put in an incredible effort, and definitely deserved the gold medal.

I think, though, the most shocking moment of these championships (so far) was definitely Usain Bolt’s disqualification from the 100m final. I have already written at length about what changes I believe the IAAF may need to implement before the Olympics next year to avoid such an event occurring a second time. It is a shame though, that the IAAF may only reconsider its decision on false starts (currently one strike and you’re out) as a result of a world record holder being disqualified. Fans have to wonder if it had been Tyson Gay or Asafa Powell who false started whether the IAAF would still be considering another look at the rules.

Another shocking moment which I mentioned briefly in this blog yesterday was the disqualifaction of Dayron Robles after he interfered in Liu Xiang’s lane during the 110m hurdles. There have been mixed views on whether stripping him of his gold medal was the right decision, but he clearly made contact with Xiang twice towards the end of the race, at a moment where it appeared Xiang was on course for the gold medal. The fair and correct decision appears to have been made by the IAAF in this case.

The biggest cheers around the stadium have emerged every time Oscar Pistorius has taken to the track. A Paralympic athlete who runs on blades, Pistorius was granted permission to run in these World Championships, to mixed feelings. To some, he is an inspiration, running times unthinkable to even some able-bodied athletes. To others, such as Tanni Grey-Thompson, a legend in Paralympic sport, he is relegating the Paralympics as a ‘B’ sport. And others feel that his blades give him an unfair advantage over other athletes. Pistorius crashed out in the semi-final, but put in some amazing performances to make it that far. I am still struggling to make my own opinion about his inclusion, but this is a fantastic article from the Telegraph which may help you make up your own minds.

Also, in the men’s 400m, there is another man to look out for: Kirani James of the island of Grenada claimed the gold medal after a surprising victory over favourite LaShawn Merritt. Aged only 18 (19 in two days), he ran a superb race and may be on course to one day beat Michael Johnson’s world record.

In the next few days, I am most looking forward to the relays. They are so often full with drama, but also feature some of the best sprinters in the world. As a fan of Great Britain, I also can’t wait to watch Dai Green’s 400m hurdles, as well as triple jumper Phillips Idowu. Be sure to keep a close eye on the next few days of events at Daegu – I am sure they will be thrilling.

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This year, the IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federations) decided to change the rule of false starts. Previously, a false start would result in yellow card against the whole field. If anyone else then committed a false start, they would be immediately disqualified. Now, the rule is far less tolerant; one false start and you’re out.

Last June, Tyson Gay spoke out against these changes, arguing that “If Usain Bolt had false-started in New York 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.”

It is as though Gay had a crystal ball, as today, Bolt was disqualified from the World Championship final after a false start.

A false start is defined in the following two ways:

  • A runner leaves the starting block before the starting gun sounds.
  • A runner reacts to the starting gun in less than one-tenth of a second. (A reaction time of faster than one-tenth of a second is believed to be impossible and it is then supposed the runner jumped the gun.)
After watching an apparently frustrated and angry Usain Bolt leave the track, it became clear the IAAF may have to re-think its policy once again. Already, British fans have had to watch the immediate disqualification of Christine Ohuruogo (400m) and Dwain Chambers (100m), but watching Bolt will undoubtedly shock athletics fans and administrators alike.

Barring injury, it is unthinkable that Bolt cannot compete in a 100m final. The idea of an Olympic final in 2012 without Bolt is beyond disappointing. In World Championships and the Olympics, you want to see the very, very best compete. Bolt is, undeniably, the best. But because the new rules, Bolt had to stand aside and watch someone else take the title of 100m World Champion, even though, in everyone else’s eyes, Bolt would almost definitely have claimed that title himself.

It is wrong that someone who is not actually the world’s fasted 100m runner now claims the title of 100m World Champion.

False starts must be punished somehow. The IAAF changed the rule because they felt that the system favoured cheaters who may commit a false start on purpose in order to put their opponents off their own races.
A world, though, where every athlete runs under a ‘two strikes and you’re out’ policy could lead to a growing number of false starts where the sport becomes farcical.

It is a very delicate, and important matter, but after watching Bolt walk away from the field today, it is hard to believe the IAAF have made the correct decision regarding the new false start regulations.

Re-thinking may be necessary before next year’s Olympics. After all, we all want to watch the world’s fastest man break another world record.

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