Stuart Weir noted that the T42 100 metes has a fascinating diversity among its competitors. In this column, Stuart delves into the challenges in classifications for the athletes in the 100 meters and 200 meters in T42.
One of the races of the week was the men’s T42 200 metres. The race was won by Richard Whitehead (GB) in a world record time of 24.10. Second was Anton Prokhorov (Russia) and Daniel Jorgensen of Denmark was third.
The T42 classification is defined above knee amputees (single leg or both legs) or equivalent disability.
The practical outworking of that is that the 2015 T42 200 metres race included double amputees, single amputees and runners with two natural legs.
The runners do not make the rules; they just run in the races in which the organizers put them. Nonetheless some athletes were keen to express their views after the race.
Regas Woods, who finished sixth, told me: “I have had a lot of adversities to overcome this year and I was glad I was able to finish the race. Not my best race but I did the best I could and gave it all I had”.
Regas was gracious but clear in his views on whether it was a level playing field. “No I don’t [think it is a fair classification]. Some things need to be reviewed, classifications wise. I have been racing against singles and bilaterals since they took the T41 class away. But if you have both your legs, you ought to be in a different class. However, until that changes we have just got to train harder and run harder”.
Scott Reardon (Australia), winner of the T42 100 metres was frustrated with his race: “You make mistakes in races. I made a really big misstep on my blade and did it again later and it takes so much energy when you nearly fall twice in the race”.
In answer to my question about classifications, he stressed that he did not want to sound like a bad loser but clearly had strong views too: “The very fact that people are asking that question really gives you the answer. Something has to be done. Richard is covering the last 100 metres in 11 flat which is the same as Allyson Felix – the women’s Olympic champion – which really makes it impossible for me to keep up. It is just unfortunate”.
Richard Whitehead, the winner is a magnificent athlete, and the controversy is not his fault. So let’s give credit where credit is due. Afterwards, Richard said: “It’s a pressure cooker environment and it’s about delivering medals to make sure the tally keeps ticking over. I enjoy setting world records but I also enjoy being part of successful team. Other athletes in my event keep pushing me – if the event didn’t move on, I wouldn’t move on. I really enjoyed that but it was all about bringing back the gold tonight. Hopefully our performances are inspiring the next bunch of athletes”.
Richard’s magnificent effort should not be overshadowed. But the classification issue does need to be looked at.