As a proud Canadian and a massive track fan, I rejoiced when our relay team crossed the finish line in the 4x100m final at the Olympics. Through whoops and cheers, I celebrated with Justyn Warner, Jared Connaughton, Oluseyi Smith and Gavin Smellie as they saw their team listed as third in the world.
With the bronze finally in their grasps, it would have been Canada’s first medal in the 4x100m since the 1996 Atlanta Olympics when Donovan Bailey, Bruny Surin, Glenroy Gilbert and Robert Esmie won the gold. Having had a medal drought for 16 years, this was supposed to BIG for our country. Seeing that they had just ran in a race where the Jamaicans smashed their old world record in a blistering time of 36.84, our relay team had just proven the potential Canada had in Athletics by coming in third behind the Americans.
But because track and field is always filled with controversy and drama, the short and sweet joy of winning a medal suddenly became one of of the most heartbreaking moments I have ever witnessed in Canadian sports history.
Through video replays, it was confirmed that Canada had stepped on the line during the third exchange of the race. And as a result, we were disqualified. Gone, was our bronze medal.
Seeing the tears and anguish on Justyn, Gavin, Oluseyi and Jared’s faces was devastating. Having listed that disqualification right after posting Canada’s third place result on the boards was a HUGE mistake from the International Olympic Committee. Why give them that joy when you would just take it away soon after? I honestly can’t imagine an athlete feeling anything worse. In fact, coming in fourth (though still crummy), would have still been better than to not have a place at all.
That being said, the person who showed much class and dignity was Jared , who admitted his fault in stepping on the line. As I watched him apologize on national television, I couldn’t help but feel for him. He didn’t owe anyone anything. In fact, being sorry should have been the last thing he should have felt.
Disqualification or not, we all watched that race and saw Canada running at its best. Even though we didn’t medal, that changed absolutely NOTHING about the race. Nobody cares who caused the DQ. Canada was brilliant. And as a result, they STILL ran the third fastest time out of the eight fastest countries in the world.
As a former runner, I know how it feels to disqualify a relay team. It’s horrible.
But if you’ve got a lot of support behind you, little matters when you know the actual time and place your team REALLY came in.
To be honest, the disqualification caused by Jared’s minor step is a pretty ridiculous rule. If you watch videos and pictures closely, you can only see him stepping on the line…not out of bounds. Maybe because I have an untrained eye, but perhaps the IAAF should reevaluate this rule.
That being said, I see plenty more positives coming out of this race than the negatives. I saw the support of Canada and the dignity and courage displayed by these four athletes. But more importantly, I saw the potential for more boys and girls to take an incentive to get involved in Athletics.
Heartbreak is a part of any sport. Disqualifications and unfair calls will often be made. But if the way Justyn, Jared, Oluseyi and Gavin ran was any indication of how great Canada could be in athletics, I hope that more and more kids will come out and join a track team because they were inspired by their performances.
For me, I choose to remember the race like this. These runners are champions, no matter what result.