Kaniskina breaks curse as Daegu catches breath

DAEGU, South Korea, (Reuters) – A gritty Russian  racewalker won the solitary gold up for grabs yesterday as a  world championships characterised so far by drama and  disqualifications reached its midway point.

Olga Kaniskina grimaced her way through downtown Daegu to  win the women’s 20 kilometres walk title for a record third time  — in the process breaking a curious curse that had developed in  this southeast Korean city.

For each of the previous four days of competition, the  athlete who has featured on the cover of the official programme  had suffered a shock, ignominious exit.

Day one, defending pole vault champion Steve Hooker exited  without completing a successful jump; day two Usain Bolt was  disqualified from the 100m final; day three Cuba’s Dayron Robles  was stripped of gold for bumping in the 110m hurdles and on  Tuesday, pole vault queen Yelena Isinbayeva failed to win a  medal after a miserable performance.

“I hope you are not on the cover tomorrow,” the lissom  Russian smiled to a table of fellow competitors as she left a  Daegu cafe near the athletes’ village yesterday.

Yesterday’s cover star Kaniskina ended the hoodoo, though,  with her third title, crossing the line in a time of 1:29.42.

“Thankfully no one told me about this before the race, they  only told me after,” Kaniskina laughed at a news conference.

“I didn’t know about it, but it was a good decision to put  me on the cover.”

The curse, while it lasted, was a welcome distraction from  the disqualifications which marred the beginning of the  championships.

First the world’s fastest man Usain bolt was scratched from  the 100 metres final when he left the blocks too soon. Instantly  peeling his vest off and slapping his hand against a wall, his  title was taken by fellow Jamaican Yohan Blake.

Twenty-four hours later, Cuba’s Dayron Robles sprinted to  gold in the 110 metres hurdles, only to be instantly stripped of  it for bumping great rival Liu Xiang along the track.
Instead gold went to Jason Richardson. Many felt the race  should have been re-run as Xiang may have won gold had he not  been impeded.

The Chinese ace could be forgiven for being a little bitter  about the incident but when asked what he would say when he next  saw Cuba’s Robles, he instantly answered: “Hello buddy”.

The disqualifications and the resulting fallout has split  opinion in this south-east Korean city.

It is ridiculous — do not deprive the sport, the fans and  broadcasters of seeing the greatest of track and field  performing in the greatest races, say one side of the argument.
Rules are rules, say the other side, including London 2012  Olympics chief and former track great Sebastian Coe who likens a  disqualification to a knockout blow in the first round of a  boxing bout.

“These things happen in sport,” he said. “We mustn’t get too  hooked up on this. There’s been DQs in the past, we have the  rules, they’re pretty clear, we don’t play fast and loose with  them simply because you get high profile DQs.

“There is no preordained outcome.”

The controversy, though, is sure to spark much  soul-searching among the highest echelons of the athletics  world.

But for now they insist nothing will be changed and  certainly the current one-false-start-and-you’re-out rule is set  in stone for London’s Olympics next year.

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