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A look back: The disqualification dilemma of Birmingham 2018

Bronze Medallist, Meghan Beesley, Hannah Williams, Amy Allcock and Zoey Clark of Great Britain react as Silver Medallist, Justyna Swiety-ersetic, Patrycja Wyciszkiewicz, Aleksandra Gaworska and Malgorzata Holub-kowalik of Poland celebrate after the Women's 4 x 400 Metres Relay Final during the IAAF World Indoor Championships on Day Four at Arena Birmingham on March 4, 2018 in Birmingham, England. (Photo by Stephen Pond/Getty Images for IAAF)
by Jordan Forte, AIPS Young Reporter, Jamaica

BIRMINGHAM, March 9, 2018 - “Disqualified, for what…are you serious?” exclaimed an upset Jamaican athlete, after learning her team had just been disqualified after crossing the finish line second in the final of the women’s 4x400 metres.

It was a theme over the four-day championships which ended here at the Arena Birmingham on Sunday, in fact it seemed more like a grim reaper just waiting for unsuspecting athletes to cross the line before snatching their hearts – and in some cases their medals - from their chests.

Jamaica’s women’s 4x400 metre relay team had just remarked how well they performed after crossing the line in what would have been a national indoor record.

Before learning of their disqualification, the team’s second leg runner Janieve Russell told AIPS: “It’s my first time running indoors, I’m very happy with the national indoor record, I’m just very glad that the girls all did their best out there and we’ve seen the results…we’re silver medalists and record holders.”

But literally seconds after completing the interview, disqualification - dressed as the grim reaper, with scythe in hand - snatched a potential medal from their grasps, their delight turning to anguish almost instantly.

Overall four teams from that race - Jamaica, Poland, Ukraine and Great Britain - lodged appeals, but after almost two hours of appeal only Great Britain were successful. The British were reinstated as bronze medalists for the event with Jamaica’s ladies left to wallow in their despair.

There were many others who felt the wrath of the disqualification grim reaper, including Spain’s Óscar Husillos, who had just finished celebrating what he thought was his first ever world 400 metre title – even getting a congratulatory hug from the previous champion, Czech Republic’s Pavel Maslak - before watching his gold medal vanish before his eyes.

Luguelín Santos, who finished second, was also disqualified from that race. The 400 metre event was replete with high drama. In the first round, an entire field of six competitors was wiped out, including Grenada’s world leader Bralon Taplin, an occurrence which television commentators later claimed must have been a record at a World Championships.

According to The Guardian, the only other occurrence where an entire field was disqualified took place at the 1944 AAU Championships, where no official champion for the 100 metres was recognized: the race was simply run as an exhibition, after all six finalists had been disqualified for false starting.

Defending World Indoor 800 metre bronze medalist, Kenya’s Margaret Wambui, didn’t even get a chance to take her place in the final after being disqualified in the heat, despite crossing the line first.

In total, over 15 competitors felt the agony of disqualification at the championships, most of which were caused by lane infringements. The exact reason for the high number of disqualifications can’t necessarily be attributed to just one factor.

It could be that officials at these championships were just stricter in enforcing the rules than those in previous editions. The tightness of each lane on the track at Arena Birmingham may have also played a role.

And so, with the end of the championships, stars were born, new champions crowned and legends created, but for many the 2018 World Indoor Championships left them with a glum feeling, one similar to a grim reaper, snatching the happiness of victory from their souls.

Follow Jordan Forte on twitter @jordyaf

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