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When competing is worse than sitting it out

Roar Guru
30th August, 2011
9
10484 Reads

What’s wrong with footage of a plump American Samoan running hard, 35 metres behind the pack in the 100m sprint at the World Championships in athletics, finishing 5 seconds after the winner of the heat?

When 17 year old Sogelau Tuvalu finished his race, the world’s media had a field day with the footage from Daegu.

Coming in at 15.66 seconds in lane 7, comparisons to “Eric the Eel” at the 2000 Sydney Olympics were not far away.

Some news media called him a “hero”, while others were not so generous.

Originally entering the Championships to compete in the shot put, after failing to qualify, the youngster thought he’d have a crack at the 100m dash which doesn’t require qualification for competitors from small nations.

In the process, he brought upon himself the not-so-glorious honour of clocking in the second slowest run in the history of the World Championships.

The second slowest in history!

At the conclusion of the heat, Tuvalu was beaming with his personal best time and shared the details of his pre-Championships preparation; one month’s training.

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So when you’re that far behind the rest, with that particular sport clearly not your forte, doesn’t competing do more harm than good?

When I first watched the video of the heat, it momentarily warmed my soul: “Look at him, having a go. Good on him!”

But watching the replays made me feel rather sad. How many people would have laughed at this footage?

This kid is having a go, but in the process he’s bringing upon himself and his country, worldwide ridicule. Even his female compatriot Megan West, qualified for the 100m with a time of 14.44.

And she improved that to 13.95 in her heat in Daegu.

Many Samoans (including American Samoans) are supreme athletes with impressive agility and strength. A look at those rugby league, rugby union and even NFL players with Samoan heritage is proof of this.

That’s why this footage from the World Championships is so infuriating. It is not a fair representation of what American Samoa can offer to athletics.

They may not have an exemplary record in the sport, but they can offer much better than this.

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Kelsey Nakanelua holds the fastest time among American Samoans over 100m with 10.81, set in 2001. That might still be far off Usain Bolt who regularly comes in under 10 seconds, however, it is still a respectable time, and worthy of a World Championships start.

Considering that there are kids at Little Athletics each weekend across Australia who can easily clock in under 15 seconds over 100m, maybe the IAAF need to reconsider the qualifying regulations for the World Championships.

If we are to call this a professional athletics competition, even for track events, a certain standard needs to be met, to avoid humiliations like this from occurring again.