Just imagine the thousands of hours of training and the hard work, dedication and sacrifice that goes into becoming an elite level athlete.
The pay off comes, of course, when you are successful on the track or in the field – an Olympic gold medal? That would be nice. A World Championship victory? Lovely stuff indeed.
But how about a world record? That confirms your status as the best in the business – better than anyone else in history, in fact.
So imagine how Noah Lyles, the American sprinter, felt when he crossed the line in the 200m sprint at the Inspiration Games event in a time of 18:90 – demolishing the current world best of 19.19 set by Usain Bolt.
The 22-year-old is a highly rated youngster and world champion, but to knock 30 seconds off the world record? Surely something was amiss – particularly as Lyles’ previous personal best was way back at 19.50 and he was also running into a headwind.
Well, it didn’t take long for the error to be found, and after the track was re-walked with a tape measure it became clear that Lyles had, bizarrely, run from the wrong blocks, and thus started 15m ahead of where he should have been.
The confusion came because the Inspiration Games was the world’s first athletics event held in these bizarre times, and social distancing measures as well as worldwide restrictions on travel meant that the athletes competed at a track local to them – with final placings decided by the time that each runner clocked.
It was a curious set up all round, and shows the complexities that face the immediate future of world athletics.
What are the Inspiration Games?
As a continuation of the Zurich Diamond League, organisers got creative in how they could get the leading athletes in the world to race one another despite the restrictions.
The problem was that they required on complete accuracy among the seven ‘hub’ sites around the world, as well as reliable TV pictures and timing to ensure that all races and distances were measured correctly.
For the 200m, three leading runners – Lyles, Christophe Lemaitre and Churandy Martina – took to the track in the USA, Switzerland and the Netherlands respectively.
The starting pistol was fired in those three locations simultaneously, and viewers at home got to see the three athletes compete in a split-screen broadcast.
Lyles, understandably, led from the get go, but when the error was spotted he was disqualified from the race and the win was handed to Lemaitre, who claimed the $10,000 prize.
Elsewhere, American legend Allyson Felix – taking to the track in California – won a special 150m race against Shaunae Miller-Uibo, the former Olympic 400m champion, and young Swiss ace Mujinga Kambundji, who were in Florida and Zurich.
There has been a men’s 100m race, pole vault and triple jump events and even a 3x100m sprint relay.
Spanning seven stadiums across three continents, eight disciplines in total are being competed in, with more than 30 of the world’s best athletes signing up to take part.