This is the updated version of the Men’s 1,500m piece. As editor (that’s me, Larry Eder), I decided to post both pieces. The Men’s 1,500m happened in real-time and the rule is, well, one that makes athletics look silly. The athlete was captured on a photo showing the happiness of winning and must have experienced something less than positive on the DQ.
Indoor athletics is like roller derby anyway, and with 13 middle-distance runners on a 200m track, in a championship event, physical entanglements will happen. 13 middle-distance runners on a 200m track going at 3:54 mile pace mean that someone could go down.
Jakub Ingebrigtsen could have gone down, he did not. He did not impede the athletes or gain an advantage. Hopefully, officials can see the video and note that Jakub was not in any way doing something wrong, he was doing what we all want to see him do: compete with emotion and power.
And that, he did. This is 4th piece on day 1. My counting can be challenging.
Jakob Ingebrigtsen’s senior medal haul at European level.
2019 Euro Indoors
2021 Euro Indoors
— European Athletics (@EuroAthletics) March 5, 2021
A race of high drama
The 1500m, the metric mile, is always one of the highlights of a track meet. The men’s 1500m was more eagerly awaited than usual in ToruÅ„ because it was the event of the local hero and ambassador for the event, Marcin Lewandowski. And to make it even better, Lewandowski – 33 and heading towards the end of his career – would face Jakob Ingebrigsten, just 20 and one of the brightest stars in European athletics.
Ingebrigtsen led for most of the race with Lewandowski in pursuit. There was a moment on the final lap when he looked to be gaining on his younger opponent but the Norwegian held him off. They finished the race and the winner commented “It was a busy race. I entered with the fastest time, but still, you need to be in shape and do the right things in the final. Today I felt really strong and confident. I proved that I am the best 1500m runner here today. It helps winning races. I am lucky to be in a position to run. I am happy about the opportunity we get. I enjoy getting better and better. Winning tonight motivates me even more”.
News just in! ðŸŽ´
— European Athletics (@EuroAthletics) March 5, 2021
The reference to the “busy race” reflected the fact that there were 13 athletes on the start line with a faller from the semi-final being reinstated. Steve Cram, on BBC commentary, uttered a prophetic word when he expressed reservations about so many runners on a tight indoor track.
The race was duly finished and Ingebrigtsen celebrated. Then came the dramatic announcement that under rule 17.3.2, the Norwegian had been disqualified for stepping off the track. We immediately recalled the last European Indoor Championship in Glasgow 2019 when Ingebrigtsen (that time, older brother, Filip) suffered the same fate. We also recalled that Mr. Ingebrigtsen senior had some choice words for European Athletics on that occasion.
Lewandowski desperately wanted to win for his nation but not like this. He commented: “I was second on the finish but finally have a gold after Ingebrigtsen’s disqualification. It is a sport and it could happen to anybody. I experienced it during World Championships, so I know what he feels now. During the race, he was definitely better. He knew I prefer a slower tempo, so decided to lead the race very fast. I tried to catch him and didn’t want to battle only for silver. In one moment, I was nearby, but his finish was incredible. It wouldn’t be a shame to lose to a guy, who almost broke a world record, but finally today I am with gold”.
While many will say that the rules are the rules and that they have to be enforced. I had great sympathy with the judgment of Hannah England (a world 1500m silver medalist herself) when she said this evening: “Did he step off the track to gain an advantage or to avoid falling over?”. She could have added and was he perhaps nudged from behind. An enthusiastically anticipated race had ended in a way that nobody wanted.
Then it became an 18.5 situation rather than a 17.3.2 situation – what do you mean, you don’t have the rulebook on your bedside table – and Ingebrigsten was reinstated but with a yellow card! (The technical reason for the yellow card is to save the face of the officials).
I want to end my report on a positive. There were two British runners in the race. Neil Gourley, a finalist in Doha, ran a disappointing race finishing 11th, Piers Copeland, just 22 and in his first senior championship, finished fifth just 0.3 of a second off the bronze medal. He said afterward: “I’m pretty happy with the result I think, if you’d have said fifth [where he finished] before the champs I would have taken that with both hands but on the day I feel like maybe I could have got a bit higher up but the legs just weren’t quite there”.
I have written this before but I do think this kind of farce embarrasses our sport. Why not hold the result check the evidence and make a decision. Announcing a winner, then disqualifying him and later re-instating him just making the sport look silly.