An Inside Look At The After Effects Of The Rome Golden Gala Fiasco At 400 Meters
Four Runners Were Nearly Clobbered By The Overhead Television Camera
By Robert Johnson
June 16, 2010
Last Thursday, the 4th meet of the inaugural Diamond League Series was held, as the 2010 Golden Gala meet was contested in Rome. In the men's 400, there was one of the more bizarre occurrences in recent track and field memory. However, many fans - particularly American ones - may not be aware of it, as many were focused on the 2010 NCAA outdoor championships, which were going on at the time, or Saturday's adidas Track Classic in New York.
In the men's 400 in Rome, the overhead television camera, which is operated on an arm, swung across the track into the outer lanes just as the runners were entering the turn near the 200 meter mark. The camera and its giant metal arm totally disrupted the race as it nearly crashed into four of the nine competitors in the race - some of whom literally had to run for cover (see race video below).
Golden Gala Fiasco At 400m
In lane 9, former FSU Seminole and 2009 NCAA champ Jonathan Borlee turned in the performance of the night, as somehow he managed to duck under the giant arm and keep running. In lane 8, Beijing Olympic bronze medallist David Neville wasn't so fortunate, as he pulled up rather than potentially crash into the camera/arm. In lane 7, Trinidad and Tobago's Rennie Quow, the bronze medallist at last year's Worlds, slowed up significantly before finishing. The other runner affected by the camera was Jamaica's Jermaine Gonzales in lane 6, who also pulled up like Neville.
It's impossible to know what effect the camera/arm had on the race. In the end, the race ended up being a very close affair between Olympic champs Jeremy Wariner (lane 4) and Angelo Taylor (lane 5), as Wariner won in 44.73 to Taylor's 44.74. It's easy to assume that since the two most accomplished athletes in the race ended up in first and second, that at the very least the winner of the race wasn't influenced by the bizarre incident, but that might be a wrong assumption.
Consider this: Two days after Rome, Gonzales ran 44.79 in France. Borlee's PR from last year is 44.78. Quow ran 44.53 last year at the Worlds and then there is Neville, who has a PR of 44.61. Neville also is in our minds the only man to have fairly beaten Jeremy Wariner (we ignore LaShawn Merritt, who was busted for drugs) in the last 5 years in a race that Wariner finished as he beat Wariner in Puerto Rico earlier this year.
Obviously the race in Rome can't be re-run, but it does raise an interesting question as to what the IAAF should do if later in the year some of the affected runners come on and are challenging Jeremy Wariner for the lead in the IAAF Diamond League point battle.
On Wednesday, LetsRun.com spoke with Neville's agent, Emanuel Hudson of HSI, to ask him what he thought of the whole situation and to get an update of where things stood. He revealed that the Rome organizers, whom he spoke highly of, had been trying to make amends for the fiasco.
"In terms of the financial arrangements, we've come to an agreeable solution with the meet director in Rome, so that's not a problem anymore, but the outstanding issue is certainly with the point structure of the Diamond League as they only give points to the top three of each event," said Emanuel. "David took second in the only other Diamond League that had points (Shanghai) and you guys (LetsRun.com) are the ones that I think that pointed out at David is the only one besides (Merritt) to have beaten Wariner in the last several years. So it's not like David wouldn't have been competitive in this race and when you see (the race video) the announcers are saying he's in a good position just prior to him having to stop. So you have an athlete who is in good shape, who is a contender (for the Diamond League jackpot) if you are using reasonable standards, and now because of this calamity, he's at a disadvantage for the rest of the season."
"It's an ongoing situation right now. I just got off the phone with (IAAF council member) Bob Hersh to ask him what happens now," said Hudson. "This is something that has never come up. It's a decision that the Diamond League board of directors is going to have to make."
In addition to a possible problem with the Diamond League points race in the men's 400 (it should be noted that the only the winner of the points race at the end of the season is financially compensated), the fiasco in Rome also may influence what meets and what appearance fees the affected competitors get into later in the summer.
As Hudson explained, "You are constantly negotiation with meets for appearance fees and money and one meet's performance effects the other meets. In this situation, a number of the meets already had David scheduled but one wanted to see the results of this race before they would confirm anything."
To help in this area, the meet organizers in Rome have agreed to call other meets on behalf of Neville (and we're assuming the other affected runners) to explain to them that they he wasn't your standard DNF.
As for Neville, Hudson said he's doing just fine. "He's a nice kid - a minister - so he has a certain temperament to him. He was disappointed and concerned as to how it will be resolved, but he understands that people make mistakes and stuff happens."
As for what he thought of the Diamond League in year one, Hudson was full of optimism. "I think it's too all of our benefit that the Diamond League works. I think it's like any other new marketing scheme - there are going to have be things fleshed out for it to work, but we need some type of event to market (besides the Olympics)."