IAAF ac­cused of mas­sive botch-up

The Star Early Edition - - METRO WATCH - DAILY MAIL

THE lone­li­ness of the short-dis­tance run­ner cap­tured the at­ten­tion of the Lon­don crowd, at the World Ath­let­ics Cham­pi­onship. They knew Isaac Mak­wala was de­nied the op­por­tu­nity to con­test the 400m fi­nal the pre­vi­ous evening as med­i­cal of­fi­cials had said he had con­tracted the highly con­ta­gious norovirus.

Just as they knew he had de­clared him­self fit to run, only for those of­fi­cials to turn him away at the en­trance to the sta­dium, amid cries of sab­o­tage and con­spir­acy, in the chaos of a cham­pi­onship that seems to be­come more bizarre by the day.

But they also knew the size of the task fac­ing him here last night af­ter be­ing given a most ex­tra­or­di­nary, seem­ingly un­prece­dented re­prieve to re­sume his quest for gold in the 200m – one that re­sulted in the IAAF be­ing ac­cused of a lack of pro­fes­sion­al­ism.

If Mak­wala wanted to par­tic­i­pate in last night’s semi-fi­nals af­ter miss­ing Mon­day’s heats due to his ill­ness, he had to run a solo 200m in the lane he was given two days ear­lier – lane seven – in less than 20.53sec. For Mak­wala, that would not be a prob­lem.

He is the fastest man in the world this year, af­ter all. Not to men­tion the first man in his­tory to run a sub-20 sec­ond 200m and sub-44 sec­ond 400m on the same night.

Out of quar­an­tine and out there on the track, Mak­wala stood tall. He looked briefly be­yond the del­uge to the heav­ens, crossed him­self and then took up his po­si­tion in the blocks.

The Lon­don Sta­dium fell silent at that mo­ment but the starter’s gun not only ig­nited the power in Mak­wala’s mus­cu­lar frame but sparked a tremen­dous roar from the stands.

If he was fu­elled by “anger”, as he said af­ter­wards, he main­tained his com­po­sure quite bril­liantly. Mak­wala ac­cel­er­ated beau­ti­fully around the curve be­fore driv­ing those arms, one cov­ered in Ly­cra, through the driv­ing rain in a mes­meris­ing race against time that ended with the sprinter cross­ing the line with time to spare.

Af­ter see­ing the clock stop at 20.20, Mak­wala rat­tled off five press-ups, saluted and then dis­ap­peared down the tun­nel in prepa­ra­tion for a semi-fi­nal race that was due to start lit­tle more than two hours later.

He said: “I am run­ning with anger. I still want to run my 400m – that is my race. I want the IAAF to give me an­other chance. I am still run­ning heart­bro­ken. I wish the IAAF had taken the de­ci­sion to let me run my 400m race first. I was ready to run the 400m. The 400 is the race that I am train­ing for, I do the 200 some­times.”

Had the IAAF acted in a bid to clear up the mess from the pre­vi­ous evening and scored what amounted to yet an­other PR own goal for the gov­ern­ing body? The state­ment they is­sued yes­ter­day af­ter­noon sug­gested not.

“The IAAF has re­ceived a writ­ten re­quest from the Botswanan fed­er­a­tion for Isaac Mak­wala to com­pete in the 200m,” it said.

Dai Greene, the former 400m hur­dles world cham­pion, said: “It seems a strange thing to do. For him to be deemed not fit for the first round and then be­ing told he can come back to try to com­pete is weird. Does this im­ply they (the IAAF) were at fault the first time and this is them try­ing to give him a sec­ond chance? It’s re­ally messy and it lacks pro­fes­sion­al­ism.”

With the lanes al­ready al­lo­cated for the other semi-fi­nal­ists, Mak­wala was given lane one and only a ri­val with a heart of stone would have be­grudged him be­ing there. Van Niek­erk watched his solo run while wait­ing for the 400m medal cer­e­mony and he re­sponded to Mak­wala’s fin­ish­ing time with warm ap­plause.

It was noth­ing, how­ever, com­pared to the re­sponse Mak­wala got when he fol­lowed his solo run with an­other im­pres­sive per­for­mance, fin­ish­ing sec­ond in the open­ing semi-fi­nal in 20.14 and mark­ing his pro­gres­sion to this evening’s fi­nal with a cel­e­bra­tory point to the sky.

He fin­ished just ahead of Great Bri­tain’s in­creas­ingly im­pres­sive Netha­neel Mitchell-Blake, who will also race tonight as the quick­est of the two fastest losers.

Mak­wala rat­tled off five press-ups, saluted and then dis­ap­peared

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