New Delhi – Australia’s Sally Pearson said she was “numb” after being stripped of her Commonwealth Games 100m gold medal for a false start as the event’s top official admitted a communications blunder.
In a chaotic chain of events in the final late yesterday, Pearson was first across the line at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in 11.28 seconds but was forced to endure an agonising wait for the outcome of a series of protests.
She eventually had her medal taken away hours later, elevating Nigeria’s Osayemi Oludamola (11.32) into first and Natasha Mayers of St Vincent and The Grenadines (11.37) into second place.
England’s Kathryn Endacott was promoted to third.
While the electronic timing system showed Laura Turner of England as the first athlete to have jumped the gun, Pearson’s reaction time of 0.071 meant technically, she had also false-started.
After some animated words with judges on the starting line, Turner ran the race under appeal, only to finish last and was later disqualified.
England subsequently protested Pearson’s false start in order to get Endacott into the medals.
Australia appealed but lost with Pearson prevented from becoming her country’s first Commonwealth Games 100m champion in 36 years.
“I guess I’m just numb right now, I don’t really know what I feel. I’m obviously devastated and disappointed,” she said, having been escorted to the medallists’ waiting room after the race.
“It didn’t go my way and that’s what I have to deal with. I’m just going to use my emotions and my anger and disappointment and put it into the hurdles and hope that I can come out on top.”
She added though that she would deal with the situation.
“I’m in this sport as a competitor and an athlete just like everyone else and this is our career, our job, it’s what we train for,” she said.
“And to run the race, do the victory lap and everything be okay and then be told you can’t have your medal is horrible but I have to deal with it because that’s the way sport is.”
Commonwealth Games Federation president Mike Fennell admitted the situation was handled badly.
“A number of things happen concurrently. The results are announced, then you’re allowed a certain time to make a protest. Someone did not communicate that a protest was being made,” he said. “It was a major communication blunder.”
Australian Athletics team manager Eric Hollingsworth said the result was a blow not just to Pearson, but the country.
“The jury of appeal have done their independent assessment and it boils down to a reaction time of one thousandth of a second not being humanly possible,” he said.
“So two false starts have been credited in the race rather than Sally reacting to the English girl’s break and that’s the basis of the decision from the jury. It’s pretty disappointing.
“At the end of the day she is without question the fastest girl in the Commonwealth and we made a tough decision to put her in and to get that far and to win it, then to have it taken away, is obviously not good.”
Immediately after the race, Oludamola said whoever was responsible for the false start should not have started.
“Something went wrong with the start,” she said. “I don’t know why they allow people to participate in the competition if they cannot follow the rules.
“In small competitions it happens, but in very big ones they shouldn’t be allowed to make a false start.”
Although the Commonwealth boasts four of the top six 100m sprinters in the world, none of them made the trip to New Delhi.
The Jamaican trio of Veronica Campbell-Brown, Shelly-Ann Fraser and Kerron Stewart all missed the event, as did Trinidad’s Kelly-Ann Baptiste.