Following the officials’ decision to make a u-turn and declare Julius Yego’s sixth throw at the Birmingham Diamond League as legal – so granting the Kenyan an African javelin record of 91.39m – SPIKES highlights five other moments of field controversy.
1. Ivan Pedroso – Sestriere, 1995
Ivan Pedroso won nine world titles (four outdoor and five indoor) and the 2000 Olympic title. Were it not for a grave piece of misfortune, the Cuban long jump legend would also be the world record holder.
In 1995 he leapt 8.96m in the fog at the high altitude ski-resort of Sestriere in Italy. This was 0.01m in excess of the mark Mike Powell set in his epic battle with Carl Lewis at the 1991 Tokyo World Championships.
The Cuban celebrated the momentous moment – after all, he had just jumped a world record distance. However, because an official was stood in front of the wind gauge when Pedroso made his epic leap, no official wind reading was made and his mark was never ratified.
2. Renaud Lavillenie – Gothenburg, 2013
The new ‘roi de le perche’ was left in tears at the 2013 European Indoor Championships in Gothenburg after he was denied the number two spot in the list of all-time best vaulters in the most unfortunate of circumstances. Lavillenie, who had already secured gold with a 6.01m vault, was making an attempt at 6.07m, which would have been the best clearance in nearly two decades.
He appeared to successfully clear the bar, sparking wild celebrations from Lavillenie and the whole arena, only to be given the red flag. Although the bar had not fallen, it had bounced up from its original place on the peg and on to the upright: a sufficient disturbance to be declared a foul. Gut-wrenching.
3. Erki Nool – Sydney, 2000
You win some, you lose some, as the saying goes, and at the Sydney Olympics decathlete Erki Nool won some. The Estonian was in gold medal contention going into the discus – the seventh discipline – only to foul his first two throws.
His third attempt was measured at 43.66m, but he was given the dreaded red flag for touching the edge of the circle with his foot. He appealed, and after much wrangling and counter appeals from his competitors, his final throw was ruled valid. The points he gained catapulted him back into the medal picture and he went on to strike gold.
Lucky boy. If he had gained zero points from the discus he would have finished 20th overall. His comments on the controversial third throw are as unambiguous as they are unrevealing: “The referee said it was okay and I can’t say anything after that.”
4. David Storl – Moscow, 2013
David Storl retained his shot put title at the 2013 World Championships in Moscow, but only thanks to the help of a photographer. Trailing Ryan Whiting after three throws, Storl thought he had dislodged the giant American from top spot in round four with a 21.73m effort, only for it to be ruled a foul.
Storl, the 2012 Olympic silver medallist, protested the decision and after a long deliberation with officials – who consulted the camera of Reuters photographer Kai Pfaffenbach – his throw was declared legal. The volte-face meant the German moved into top spot – a position he did not relinquish.
An elated Storl said afterwards: “If I see [that photographer] again I’ll buy him a beer.”
5. Betty Heidler – London, 2012
After four rounds of the women’s hammer final at London 2012, the then world record holder Betty Heidler was lying down in ninth place.
It looked to everyone like her fifth throw was an improvement on her previous best 73.90m, as it sailed out beyond the 75-metre marker. Everyone except for the electronic measuring system, which recorded it as a 72.34m throw.
Heidler’s actual throw had gone missing on the system. Despite their efforts and the German’s insistence, it could not be located. As recompense Heidler was offered another throw, but she failed to improve on her best effort.
TV replays were consulted and the computer system scoured, and eventually, some 40 minutes after the competition had ended, Heidler’s actual mark was found and measured at 77.12m. It was good enough for the bronze, and the jubilant Heidler was able to enjoy the stadium celebration her throw deserved.
Just spare a thought for Zhang Wenxiu, who had occupied the bronze medal position until the kafuffle was resolved.