Monday, May 21, 2012
Organizers sorry for hurdle blunder
LONDON -- After the last hurdle, Jessica Ennis turned it on for the final stretch. A very, very long final stretch.
Running on a makeshift track through the streets of Manchester, the British heptathlete had been neck-and-neck with Olympic champion Dawn Harper late in the 100-meter hurdles race Sunday at the Great City Games. But with an extra long run-in because of a missing hurdle, Ennis pulled away and crossed the line first.
Less than an hour later, her confidence-boosting victory turned into a debacle for the race's organizers. Instead of the regulation 10 hurdles, they had only put out nine.
"Clearly as organizers of major sporting events it's an unacceptable error and we are disappointed and sorry," Nova International spokesman David Hart said Monday, accepting responsibility for the mistake. "I think it's pretty safe to say that this mistake won't happen again."
Ennis won Sunday's four-woman race in 12.75 seconds, a time that would have been a personal best for the Olympic heptathlon favorite. Harper, who won the Olympic gold medal in the hurdles four years ago in Beijing, was second in 12.86.
Although the runners didn't appear to notice the mistake at the finish line, they took about 10 strides after clearing the last hurdle. Normally, 100-meter hurdlers take about five steps to cross the finish line.
The race was run in conjunction with the Great Manchester Run, a 10-kilometer road race won by Haile Gebrselassie. But the Great City Games are more of a spectator event with a track laid down on Deansgate, one of the main city thoroughfares in leading out to Old Trafford, the home stadium of soccer power Manchester United.
But winning any hurdles race in a personal best time was enough to keep Ennis celebrating until she heard the bad news. She described the situation as a "massive, massive mess-up" and said she was "disappointed."
At first, Nova tried to deflect responsibility by blaming UK Athletics, the governing body of track and field in Britain. But on Monday, they owned up to making the mistake.
"We're embarrassed and disappointed of course," Hart said on BBC radio. "We ... didn't put the last hurdle out for a race, so it's not our proudest moment."
Three years ago in Manchester, Usain Bolt ran the world's fastest 150 meters in 14.35 seconds at the event, breaking the previous best time of 14.99 set by Donovan Bailey in 1997 in a head-to-head race against Michael Johnson.