It’s been a week of “oops moments” in track & field.
First there was Katy Andrews at the BYU Robison Invitational. Andrews was leading the 3000 meter steeplechase when her spikes caught just before the water jump and she failed to jump and instead went head first into the water pit.
This spectacular fall, which Andrews herself uploaded to YouTube, has gone viral but if that nine second clip isn’t enough for you, you can see the fall from another angle, in super slow motion, as well as a sequence of photos shot by BYU photographer Jaren Wilkey. Andrews was leading the race at the time of her fall and she resumed running after the fall. But after running two more laps, her coaches convinced her to drop out so they could check her for any injuries.
The next day at the Payton Jordan Invitational at Stanford University, 2008 1500 meter Olympian Lopez Lomong, running his first competitive 5000 meter race since his college days miscounted the laps and kicked one lap too early. He started to surge away from the pack at the 4200 meter mark (two laps to go). David Torrance gave chase while the rest of the pack was content to let them go because there were still two laps to go. Torrance would later say that he knew there were two laps to go but he wanted to cover Lomong’s move because he was going for the win. Lomong ran a blistering 54 second lap on what he thought was the last lap but actually was the penultimate lap. After raising his arms in victory and slowing to a stop the crowd and officials started yelling to him that he still had one more lap. No one had passed him yet so Lomong took off running again! He somehow managed to run a 66 second last lap despite the stop and the tremendous lactic acid build-up he likely had in his legs. The results sheet will show him with a 2012 world leading and Olympic A standard time of 13:11.63, three seconds ahead of second place.
Lomong’s early kick reminded me of an indoor race I watched many years ago involving Suzy Favor Hamilton. After some research I found the details from that race. It was the mile at the 1994 Mobil Invitational indoor track & field meet in Fairfax, Virginia. The race was eight laps and pitted Hamilton against the reigning Olympic 1500 meter champion Hassiba Boulmerka of Algeria. Hamilton kicked on what she thought was the last lap to pull ahead of Boulmerka. But there was still one lap to go. When Hamilton heard the bell for the final lap ringing she shouted “Oh no!” and you could see the shock on her face. Unlike Lomong, Hamilton did not get back in the race and Boulmerka would win with a time of 4:28.64.
It turns out this was not Hamilton’s only lap counting goof. At the 1990 Goodwill Games in Seattle, Washington, then still in college at the University of Wisconsin, she got disoriented on the track and didn’t start her kick until it was too late, finishing fourth in a race that many thought she could have won.
To err is human, so next time you make a boo-boo remember at least your mistake isn’t being written up in the newspaper or posted as a video on the internet.