Jessica Ennis beat the Olympic sprint hurdles champion and would have run a PB if Powerade Great CityGames officials had put the right number of barriers out
Building a temporary track on Deansgate in central Manchester is one of the most impressive feats in athletics. So it was a huge shame that the 2012 Powerade Great CityGames was overshadowed by a technical blunder that saw only nine instead of ten hurdles in Jessica Ennis’ 100m hurdles race.
Nova International, the organisers of this innovative event, have prided themselves in constructing the track – mostly during nocturnal hours – in order for it to meet strict IAAF guidelines for records purposes. Indeed, the world governing body used to list the CityGames results as an ‘exhibition’ footnote in their rankings until Nova fought to get their meeting marks properly recognised. Given this, Nova were more annoyed than anyone that one of the races of the day was ruined by an incorrect number of barriers.
Confusion reigned on a chilly, dull day in north-west England as Ennis first celebrated what she thought was a PB of 12.75, only to later express her disappointment that her time won’t count. “I can’t believe it,” said Ennis. “It’s a great event but that’s a massive, massive mess-up.”
An eagle-eyed Kelly Sotherton and Twitter were to ‘blame’. Sotherton tweeted her bemusement within seconds of the race finishing. She told AW: “Spotted (it) as they ran in to finish in 9 strides instead of 5.”
Yet the confusion continued for about half an hour before Nova finally confirmed the blunder. A stern-faced David Hart, head of communications from Nova, said: “We’ll conduct a thorough investigation and find out what happened and why and by whom.”
He later added: “We employ leading UKA officials to manage this vital element of the event on our behalf, and we will of course be investigating this unfortunate occurence further with them. On behalf of all those staging the Great CityGames today, we would like to apologise for this unacceptable incident, and in particular the athletes.”
The mistake did not, however, take away from what had been a terrific competitive victory for Ennis over Olympic champion Dawn Harper and world silver medallist Danielle Carruthers of the United States. Harper was second in 12.86 and Carruthers third in 13.02.
“Jess still took some great scalps,” said Ennis’s coach Toni Minichiello. And Ennis added that the result would almost certainly have been the same if there had been ten hurdles.
Ennis also joked that she would walk down the track and count the number of hurdles in her heptathlon in Gotzis next weekend, but she struggled to hide her disappointment and added: “As an athlete you expect that everything should be set up properly and there should be no mistakes like that so I am pretty disappointed.”
Initally, Sotherton had put a tweet out within a couple of minutes of Ennis’s race finishing to say: “That 100mh was great but I’m sure that there was only 9 hurdles not 10. Please someone verify!”
Apart from having hurdled for two decades, Sotherton has bitter experience of this kind of mistake too when she was involved in a hurdles race where the third barrier was put in the wrong place at the Aviva London Grand Prix at Crystal Palace in July 2008.
Certainly, Sotherton was far from smug and satisfied after being just about the only person to notice the error. Instead, she tweeted: “I feel bad! People probably think I’m being a cow bag!”
Elsewhere, Christian Malcolm won a tight 100m from Jimmy Vicaut and Mark Lewis-Francis in 10.46 into a headwind. Andy Turner clattered barriers and finished a disappointing fourth in a 110m hurdles won by Ryan Brathwaite of Barbados in 13.60, but the European and Commonwealth champion later bounced back to win the 200m hurdles ahead of Felix Sanchez in 22.54.
The men’s 150m went to Wallace Spearmon – the American gliding to victory in 14.87 as Dwain Chambers ran 15.27 to pip Marlon Devonish for second. In the women’s 200m, Sanya Richards-Ross won easily in 22.71 ahead of Denisa Rosolova’s 23.53, Margaret Adeoye’s 23.56 and Nicola Sanders’ 23.79.
Holly Bleasdale finished second in the pole vault with 4.43m to Lisa Ryzih’s 4.50m.
The events took place just a few hundred metres from the finish of the Bupa Manchester Run, where Haile Gebrselassie ran a world lead of 27:39 for 10km earlier in the day amid a field of around 40,000 runners.
» See Athletics Weekly on Thursday May 24 for in-depth coverage of Powerade Great CityGames, Bupa Great Manchester Run, BMC Nike Grand Prix and Loughborough International.