By Jon Gugala
July 2, 2012
Nothing is more dramatic in track and field than a dive at the line. And nothing is more disappointing than when a dive doesn’t work.
In the men’s 400-meter hurdles final on Sunday, Bershawn “Batman” Jackson, defending trials champion, found himself in third place and fading after going over the last hurdle. Losing ground to eventual third-place finisher Kerron Clement (ironically the runner-up to Jackson in the 2008 trials), Jackson launched himself at the finish.
And why the hell not?
With everything to gain and nothing to lose (a la 2008 iconic trials moment of 800-meters competitor Christian Smith out-diving Khadevis Robinson for the third Olympic spot), Jackson, consciously or not, felt that it was in his best interest to secure an Olympic spot through the air (which, when you think about it, isn’t that far a stretch of logic for a hurdler).
If you haven’t seen it, the best clips show Jackson in profile in super slow-mo floating through the air. It’s remarkable how much ground he covers, during which he rotates onto his right side to take the hit of the maroon track rushing up to meet him on the other side of the finish.
But in the analysis that was not at all close compared to the other, more famous 2012 trials tie (google it), Jackson was ruled to have finished five one-hundredths of a second behind Clement, 48.94 to 48.89, respectively.
400-meter hurdles, Photo by PhotoRun.net
In front of the pair, Michael Tinsley came from behind to decisively take the win over Angelo Taylor, 48.33 to 48.57.
After dusting himself off, Jackson said, “[I’m] disappointed. It’s the worst place you can possibly finish.”
Jackson would later claim that his ninth hurdle was clipped by runner-up Taylor, who was in the lane next to him. “It throw my rhythm off bad and what hurts the most nothing was done about it,” Jackson said via Twitter. “Olympic dream gone just like that.”
Yep, just like that, in a moment suspended between third and fourth, between the sky and ground, Jackson lost an Olympic spot. And at 26 years old, Jackson is, well, getting old for a long hurdler.
“Us athletes, we give this sport our families,” Jackson said. “It’s a heartbreaker for me because I have a family to support, so not making the team is disappointing.”
But it was a good day for Clement, also 26, and good days for Tinsley (28) and Taylor (ancient at 33).
“I’ve been training so long and being so close has kept me motivated to keep running,” Tinsley said. “I just made sure I did every small thing to make it through each round. I came out on top. It was amazing.”
Taylor, who, with Sunday’s finish, has made his fourth Olympic team, echoed the amazement: “I knew the competition I was facing. My main goal was just to stay healthy.
“I’ve had a lot of trials, and some of those were failures. It took sacrifice, and putting in the time day in and day out to get to this point.”
But for Jackson, his Olympic dream, for now, is over. He returns to Raleigh, N.C., to nurse his failure and resume training.
After all, a dive is just a precursor to flying again.