A lengthy appeal has seen Ireland’s John Travers advanced to the final of the men’s 1500 metres at the European Athletics Indoor Championships in Belgrade, after a bizarre incident put paid to his original chances barely three seconds in his semi-final, writes Will Downing.
A recall gun clearly went off immediately after the start of Travers’ semi, distracting all the athletes - but most particularly, Travers and Spaniard Marc Alcalá, both of whom reduced to almost a walking pace.
The rest of the field continued however, looking across at the track judges on the start line, leaving Travers and Alacalá stranded at the back for the entire race.
Travers reported hearing at least two judges trying to call the athletes back, but the race continued uninterrupted right to the end: “We were about 40 metres in when a big loud bang went off from a second gun, so it seemed they definitely were calling us back for something, but the five lads ahead of us seemed to have a mission to keep going so myself and the Spaniard got sixty metres behind them and came to a jog and a stop.”
The false start rule - where those who go ahead of the gun are automatically disqualified - only applies up to 400 metres.
No advantage is considered to be gained at distances longer than this, but race judges and starters do have the discretion to call athletes back in a start is considered untidy. However, these instances are exceptionally rare.
Ironically, the major problem with starts in Belgrade has been with the sprints on the inside track, with four attempts needed to get the women’s 60m hurdles underway last night.
Irish team manager Patsy McGonagle registered a protest immediately, with a decision coming some hours afterward.
A European Athletics statement read: “According to rule 146.3, the referee of the event decided to refer the matter that arose during the race to the Jury of Appeal.
“The Jury of Appeal has examined all evidence and has come to the conclusion that a recall gun was fired by mistake.
“All athletes were confused but only two, namely Marc Alcala (ESP – bib number 68) and John Travers (IRL – bib number 172) were significantly affected by the incident as all others continued to race.
“Therefore, the Jury of Appeal has decided to advance them to the next round.”
That final takes place at 7:20pm Irish time.
Before that, Ciara Mageean competes in the women’s equivalent at 6:45pm, with the European bronze medallist from Amsterdam last year making it as a fastest loser last night.