One of the magnifiscent parts of our sport, in my mind, is its uncertainty. No one is too good, no one is incapable of an error. In our wonderful human frailties, a moment is opened for another human who wants something more than the current star, finds the opening and competes above expectations. Stuart Weir witnessed such a race on Friday night, May 18. Here is his story on the sprint hurdles that did not follow the proverbial script.
Men’s sprint hurdles
The race of the day on paper was the men’s 110m hurdles. It was a straight battle between the 2012 Olympic champion, Aries Merritt (USA) and the 2018 World Indoor champion, Andrew Pozzi (GB). Unfortunately, the Polish athlete, Damian Czykier, had not read the script. Instead of running a courageous race and settling for third place, the Pole, who had been in the 2016 Olympics, the 2017 World Championships and the 2018 World Indoor Championships, without making the final in any of them, started well, carried on and won the race.
Pozzi lost his rhythm entirely, hitting several hurdles. Merritt had such a clear lead that the race seemed over, until he hit a hurdle so hard that he almost stopped. The full result was:
1 Damian Czykier (Poland) 13.67
2 David King (GB) 13.83
3 Andrew Pozzi (GB) 13.90
4 Aries Merritt (USA) 14.34
A clearly delighted Czykier commented: “This is a day that I will remember! I will be laughing with my friends and colleagues about what happened tonight when I’d beat such great hurdle runners.
Asked about how the race went, he replied: “This is the hurdles and this is the beauty of the discipline, because anything can happen. Tonight I was the one who kept calm during the race. My tactic was to run clean with no mistakes and not worry too much because this is a street race where anything can happen. This is a special track and sometimes the surface can be not very good. On this surface you always need to be looking out.
“This was my first street race and it was great, it was perfect. I love having the contact with people because you’re so close to them. You can see their faces and hear them cheering. In the stadium, there is a much bigger distance to the audience”.
Andrew Pozzi admitted that he had failed to deal with the unfamiliar surface: “It was carnage. It was a really strange one. It’s tough not to blame the surface but I kept missing a step. Every time I was coming down on the ground it was feeling very soft and I was not getting anything back. I felt I had a bit of a surge around hurdle three and was moving through a bit. Then I got so close on a hurdle and I wasn’t taking off very well. I know it sounds like a cop out but it was just a strange one. I was getting really close to all the hurdles and in the end nearly wore one.
“Even in warm up I had real problems with the surface. The track is on a stage, completely hollow underneath. It even sounds different”.
One athlete’s disappointment is another one’s joy. The result may not have been what was expected but it certainly made for an exciting race.