The thrill which athletics provides to its spectators is of a peculiarly beautiful nature.
Mankind loves stories that have a beginning, a middle and an end. Athletics provides this in short bursts, during a tournament.
“On your marks, get set….
Pah!” And they’re off. And within the space of 19.19 seconds, you see Ussain Bolt spectacularly achieve the ‘impossible’ by once again clipping 0.11 secs from a world record: this time, the record for the 200 metres. In the same way as he’d treated the 100 metres a few days earlier.
So, suddenly, the Berlin World Championships of 2009 becomes the talk of the world, knocking the 2008 Olympic Games off its perch. The story began, it had a middle, and it ended — in the crowning of Ussain Bolt as (probably) The Fastest Man Of All Time.
Yet I believe that Bolt hasn’t quite written his full stop to record-breaking. I suspect strongly that he’s going to give us a ‘sequel’ to The Berlin Story.
For, after he’d finished the 200m race, he told a TV interviewer that he was “tired” but he decided to try and do his best.
He was “tired” and yet he clipped 0.11 secs off the world record! So what will happen when he’s not tired? I ask you.
The statement by Bolt that he was “tired” is where I get my cue from. One day, that boy is going to run both the 100m and the 200 with full concentration.
And he — or someone with his interest at heart — will also ensure that he does this when he’s not tired but totally refreshed.
Then we shall see ‘who born man.’
100 metres in 9.49 seconds? Why not? 200m in 19.14 seconds? Oh Lord, please save Ussain Bolt from injury. And give him a manager who can cut the clowning out of him, please.
This guy stands on the verge of creating the Greatest Athletics Story Ever Told, and he comes to a race tired? He turns to check the clock before he has breasted the tape? Ao Jamaica! Is there nobody there who can step forward to turn Bolt into a super-efficient machine of the Carl Lewis/Michael Johnson type?
I mean, one loves to see the fun that gushes out of every pore of Bolt. But this is serious business.
People break the athletics law and use drugs, but it only gives them a performance that pales into insignificance compared to that of Bolt. Bolt gets his performance drug-free by Act of God.
And he fritters parts of it away with clowning, and parts of it by getting himself tired before a race. Oh boy — it makes one want to go get hold of him and give him a couple of slaps to ‘serious’ him up.
— honest! (Except that at 6ft 5inches, he does not exactly cut the figure of someone who easily invites slaps from the likes of me!)
Anyway, all my best wishes go to him. What he’s done has pumped as much testosterone into athletics in a single year as hasn’t happened in the past 10 years.
Talking of testosterone, the London Daily Telegraph claims that Caster Semenya, the South African runner who has astounded the world with her 800 metres victory and has been made the subject of unsavoury speculation regarding her gender, has been found to possess “three times” the amount of testosterone in her as is usually found in female athletes.
Here’s the paper’s report:
“South African athlete Caster Semenya will undergo further gender verification tests after her victory at the World Championships in Berlin.
A source close to the investigation into the 800 metres gold medallist has confirmed that tests carried out before the start of the World Championships [in Berlin] indicated that the runner had three times the normal female level of testosterone in her body.”
The Daily Telegraph also alleged that the head coach of the South African athletics team is Dr Ekkart Arbeit, a former “East German coach who was accused by a female athlete, Heidi Kreiger of giving her so many anabolic steroids that she was forced to undergo a sex change operation” in 1997 and live in Germany for the rest of her life as a man called Andreas Krieger.
The row over whether Caster Semenya is a woman or a man has caused a lot of justifiable anger in South Africa, where the country’s parliament is reported to be preparing to file a complaint with the United Nations Commissioner of Human Rights, over the athlete’s treatment.
The South African argument is that gender verification tests are a “gross and severe undermining of [human] rights and privacy.”
Meanwhile, the President of the IAAF, Mr Lamine Diack of Senegal, has said he “regrets” the public row over Semanya, and admitted that the affair could have been treated with more sensitivity. “It should not even have become an issue, if the confidentiality [aspect of the matter] had been respected,” Diack said.
He added: “There was a leak of confidentiality at some point and this led to some insensitive reactions.”
It is amazing that after what his organisation has done to the poor girl, all Mr Diack could say was that he “regrets” the incident.
The “leak” of confidentiality he was talking about was attributed to a Mr Nick Davies, who made a statement, a few hours before Semanya was due to run in the 800 metres final, that she would be undergoing a gender test.
Diack should have told us whether the statement by Davies was authorised, and if so, by whom. If it wasn’t authorised, what is the IAAF going to do about it?
People like Diack have been involved in the bureaucratic side of world athletics for so long that they’ve lost all touch with reality. Diack first became a Vice-President of the IAAF in 1976 and served in that position till 1991.
He became Senior Vice-President in 1991 and served in that position until November 1999, when he became President of the IAAC. So he’s been within the gilded folds of the IAAF for a good 33 years.
Anyone with a less bureaucratic approach to sports issues would not merely be expressing “regret” at the leakage of the confidential information about Semanya, but ordering an official enquiry, which would lead to reprisals against the guilty party or parties.
The South Africans are justifiably annoyed that the IAAF should have made a statement about Semanya only 3 hours or so before she was due to run the 800 metres final. A lesser person could have been so badly affected by the hullabaloo that she would have lost the race.
No wonder she was reported to have said she wanted to boycott the medal ceremony. She would have been within her rights had she done that.
You see, the issue is not simply one of whether she is a man or a woman.
Whatever she is, cannot be her fault. So to subject her to international ridicule on such a gargantuan scale was cruel to the utmost and completely unjustifiable.
The black population of South Africa solidly believes that the insensitivity with which Semanya has been treated is due to her colour and that if she had been a white athlete, greater regard would have been paid to her interests.
This perception has in fact led to the withdrawal from the IAAF of the head of South African athletics , Mr Leonard Chuene.
Mr Chuene, who is president of Athletics South Africa, said he would withdraw from the International Association of Athletics Federations’ board “for as long as it takes to fight this dreadful case against our young runner.
I have withdrawn because there is a clear conflict of interest between myself and the way the case is being handled.”
If the African members of the IAAF had any backbone, they should all rally behind the South Africans and make sure that a few heads do roll at the level of the IAAF bureaucracy.
Africans and people of African descent are all the rage when it comes to international athletics. But it is people some of whom may not respect black people who take most of the crucial decisions about athletics. Fancy the “tests” about Semanya’s gender do not show anything to blame her about.
Who can make up for the anguish she has already suffered?