False starts and missed starts at the Olympics | Strangest Moments


For a sprinter, a good start
can be the difference between achieving everlasting glory
and being forgotten forever. It’s no wonder, then, that so
much of a sprinter’s training is geared towards getting out
of the blocks as quickly as possible. In the 1988 Olympic Games, the decathlon field
was historically strong. Defending champion
Daley Thompson was back, and a pair of young
East Germans, Christian Schenk and
Torsten Voss, were looking to make their mark
on the grandest stage. One man who was desperate to make a big impression was West Germany’s
Jurgen Hingsen. He was the world record holder, but had only managed silver in
1984. He was 30 in 1988, in his
prime, and ready to claim the gold that had slipped past him in
Los Angeles. The first event was the 100m, not Hingsen’s favourite
discipline. He would need an excellent
start. He was clearly keen. It was Hingsen again. Decathletes are allowed
two false starts, so he was still in contention. As long as he didn’t… Oh. Despite protesting his
innocence, Hingsen’s campaign was over
before it had begun. His Olympic career
had ended with a whimper. He would never return to the
Games. But Hingsen wasn’t
a full-time sprinter, so his over-eager starting
can be forgiven. Specialist sprinters spend
years perfecting their starts, precisely to avoid situations
like the one Hingsen found himself in. Linford Christie
arrived in Atlanta as defending champion of the
100m. His gold medal in Barcelona had come at the relatively old
age of 32, so, at 36, Atlanta was certain to be his final
Olympic Games. Welcome to the opening
ceremony of the Games… Christie had defied his years
to cruise to the final, winning his second-round heat
ahead of the world champion, Canada’s Donovan Bailey. The line-up for the final
was formidable. Alongside Bailey, there was world number one
Frankie Fredericks, who had finished
behind Christie in 1992 to claim the silver, the USA’s Dennis Mitchell, who earned bronze
in the same race, Ato Bolden, the
superstar-in-waiting who had become the youngest
100m medallist in World Championship history
the previous year… ..and Mike Marsh,
who had won gold in the 200 metres in Barcelona. It was a high-calibre field. There would be no room for
mistakes. Christie knew he’d need to run
the perfect race to retain his title. A rare false start from
Christie. Famously an excellent starter, he knew he’d have to be
flawless today. He’d pushed his luck. One more of those and his Olympic Games career
would be over. Set… Another false start. This time,
young Bolden was at fault. Tension was building.
Third time lucky? Christie looked bemused, but replays seemed to confirm
that he was at fault. His title defence was over,
in heartbreaking circumstances. Or was it? Christie removed the second
flag from his blocks. He was refusing to
accept the verdict. It was remarkable behaviour from the elder statesman of
sprinting. He was asked to leave the
arena, and after holding up the
race for nearly three minutes, he reluctantly stepped away
from the track. He watched on helplessly as he lost his crown to Donovan
Bailey. It was a bizarre end to
the international career of one of the greatest
sprinters in history. But at least Christie made it
onto the track, which is more than
can be said for some. Heading into the
1972 Olympic Games, Rey Robinson
and Eddie Hart were two of the hottest
prospects in sprinting. They were joint
world record holders. Both were tipped to win
medals in the 100m. After qualifying easily from
their first-round heats in the morning, the two young sprinters went
back to the Olympic Village to relax. Their coach, Stan Wright, was looking after their
schedule. He told them that their
second-round heats would not start
until 6pm at the earliest. At 4:15pm, Robinson and Hart
met in the Athletes’ Village and turned the television on. They saw a men’s 100m race. It was the second round. The pictures were live. Confusion set in. Then panic. They hurried to the stadium.
But it was too late. Hart and Robinson missed their
race and were disqualified. Coach Stan Wright had been
working from the wrong schedule. For both young sprinters, their life’s work had
unravelled in front of them. It was devastating. To make matters worse,
the gold was eventually won by Valeriy Borzov
of the USSR, in a time of 10.14 seconds. Robinson and Hart had both
run 9.95 seconds earlier that year. Neither Robinson nor Hart
would ever win an Olympic medal in an individual event. Their golden,
once-in-a-lifetime chance had been blown
in gut-wrenching circumstances. So, next time you sleep through
your alarm clock, and you get that
sickening feeling in the pit of your stomach, try
to imagine how Rey Robinson and Eddie Hart felt when they turned on that
television.

65 comments

  1. I have a question. I don't watch Olympics often but I wanna ask

    If anyone false starts so is he/she not allowed to race in their whole career??
    After 2 false starts are they not allowed to race in the next one??

  2. The last one is really sad..imagine u absolutely done preparation for olympic n then u miss the event..i cant imagine if i miss the examination because im wrong checking the schedule

  3. I once forgot to put on my running spikes and I realised in the start blocks that I still wore my trainers but missing a start, that hurt just watching. poor guys.

  4. In decathlon it kinda seems like they could make an exception to the starting rules and simply reduce from false-starters time the amount he starts before the slowest starter of the heat. It would be more fair to the other athletes too, as they wouldn´t have to worry about the start more than once. 1 tenth is worth some 25 points. Differences between athletes in final results usually are more than that. I looked 2016 results and the first under 25 points gap was between 8th and 9th.

  5. I barely can tell when they have a false start, like the difference is so tiny yet all the runners next to the person who made the mistake can tell?

  6. Hold on so if a sprinter false starts twice and gets disqualified from the games that year, their completly banned and their careers over?

  7. Question: why can't they use the electronic doors that they use for horse races? I mean that should solve some of the false start problems. The doors can be some soft plastic or something in case they are worried about head injuries

  8. 1:36 I don't get it. The start is clean. I played it in slo mo and everything. At least according to this video, the start sound goes off before he starts. Why was he disqualified?

  9. seem to confirm he was the first one to react being the superior athlete. The film does not show us the starting gun which now I think is also a light to determine when the gun goes off. Maybe he was just the first to react to the gun but instead is penalized for his speed.

  10. One time in swimming I like how I literally was tilting forward off the block before the beep for the past half second and I still didn't get disqualified, and then when these guys in track move 1 nanometer before the whistle they get disqualified

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