The fastest woman at the Commonwealth Games will leave New Delhi without tangible proof of her accomplishment in the 100 meters.
Australian sprinter Sally Pearson crossed first in the 100 metres in 11.28 seconds on Thursday night at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, but she was disqualified hours later because of a false start. That was after she’d done a victory lap with the Australian flag flying behind her and almost made it to the medal podium because unofficial results were released, but later corrected and reclassified in yet another embarrassing glitch at the games. Commonwealth Games Federation president Mike Fennell described it as a “major communications blunder.”
“I guess I’m just numb right now,” Pearson said after finding out that the gold medal would go to Nigerian runner Osayemi Oludamola, who was second in 11.32. “I don’t really know what I feel.”
Both Pearson and Laura Turner of England appeared to false start at the race’s first attempt. An official then walked on the track and gave Turner a red card, but the English sprinter argued and stayed in the race, competing under protest. Turner finished eighth in 11.57, but she was also disqualified.
In the video replays, Turner appeared to jump the gun first. But Pearson was also disqualified because the jury of appeal decided that the Australian’s false start was so close to Turner’s that she couldn’t have been influenced by the Englishwoman.
“The jury of appeal have done their independent assessment and it boils down to a reaction time of one-thousandth of a second not being humanly possible, so two false starts have been credited in the race rather than Sally reacting to the English girl’s break and that’s the basis of the decision from the jury,” Australia’s athletics team manager Eric Hollingsworth said.
Pearson, who won an Olympic silver medal in the 100-meter hurdles at Beijing, will still get a chance to leave India with a gold medal in her usual event, which starts on Sunday.
“I’m just going to use my emotions and my anger and disappointment and put it into the hurdles and hope that I can come out on top,” Pearson said. “I’m in this sport as a competitor and an athlete just like everyone else and this is our career, our job, it’s what we train for.
“To run the race, do the victory lap and everything be OK and then be told you can’t have your medal is horrible, but I have to deal with it because that’s the way sport is.”
Oludamola will receive her gold at a medal ceremony on Friday evening. Natasha Mayers of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, who won the first ever medal in athletics for her country at the Commonwealth Games, will move up to sliver and Katherine Endacott of England will get bronze.
“At the end of the day she (Pearson) is without question the fastest girl in the Commonwealth,” Hollingsworth said.