The Tokyo Olympics have gotten the whole world talking about athletic achievements and medal counts — and false starts.
Gone are the days of second chances; any competitor deemed to start a race too soon is automatically disqualified, their Olympic dreams completely dashed.
The current false start rule catches not only those who push off before the starter gun is fired, but also those who push off within one tenth of a second afterwards.
That last part always puzzled me. If we encourage Olympic athletes to push the frontiers of human achievement, then shouldn’t we reward them, not punish them, for starting as soon as possible after the starter gun is fired?
Just ask Linford Christie. He won gold for Britain in the 100-metre dash at the 1992 Olympics. But then, in 1996, he was disqualified for starting 0.086 seconds after the starter pistol was fired.
“I felt I reacted perfectly to the gun,” he complained. As indeed he had. But that didn’t save him from being escorted off the track and ending his career in disappointment.