If you blinked, you missed Devon Allen’s false start in the 110-meter hurdles final at Sunday’s World Outdoor Championships in Eugene, Ore.
If you didn’t blink, you also missed seeing the false start. It’s because Allen’s false start could not be detected by human eyesnaked or not.
It took an electronic sensor to determine that Allen had started a thousandth of a second earlier than expected, disqualifying the Phoenix Brophy Prep and Oregon product and causing deserved outrage.
Allen didn’t jump the gun; he left after it sounded. But he’s gone too quickly, at least according to World Athletics, which governs international athletics. He determined, seemingly randomly, that a human is not capable of reacting to the choke gun in less than 0.1 seconds. Allen reacted in 0.099, a millisecond too early.
Just like that, the man who, in June, recorded the third fastest time of the event, was out. Row 3 was empty in the final, won by American Grant Holloway.
It was a reminder, again, that storybook endings in life are rare and should be enjoyed when experienced.
Ever since he was a teenager, Allen dreamed of excelling on the track and on the football field. In April he signed with the Eagles, although he hasn’t played football since injuring his knee while playing for Oregon in 2016. And he was peaking at the right moment to win gold at the world championships, which are being held at his former home. trail in Oregon.
For Allen, a two-time Olympian, the summer was tragic, but not because of everything that happened in sport. His father, Louis Allen, Jr., died in late June, the same day Allen qualified for the world championships.
“He will always have the best seat in the house,” Allen told reporters after a qualifying round last weekend. “He can run the race with me if he wants. My dad said, ‘Anything worth doing is 100 per cent worth doing. ‘ It’s important to find what you love and do it.
Sometimes the things you love don’t always love you back. Allen found that out Sunday in Eugene when an arbitrary rule with little scientific basis cost him a chance at a gold medal.
Several studies, including one commissioned by World Athletics themselves, have found that humans can react much faster than the rule allows, and that the rating for determining a false start should be lowered.
“It’s like throwing LeBron for a tricky foul in Game 7 of the (NBA Finals) in the (last) minute of the game,” coach and author Steve Magnes tweeted. “Or decided the Super Bowl based on a cheap, limit penalty instead of letting them play. The trail continually hurts…over and over again.
Sunday’s disqualification was a disappointment caused by the myopia of others. A sprinter should not be penalized for being too fast.
“I think we need a line in the sand,” said Tim O’Neil, who coached Allen at Brophy and for a time after Allen finished at Oregon. “But I don’t think it should be that close to the ability of the athletes.”
Allen pleaded his case immediately after the disqualification, and his competitors said afterwards that Allen should have been allowed to run.
But officials apparently decided there was no mechanism that would have allowed Allen to run the race in protest and then sort out the whole mess afterwards.
“Athletics is so tough because you train all year for a competition that lasts 12 seconds, 13 seconds, and that’s it,” Allen said after the race. “It’s kind of like your identity is based on that competition alone, which is frustrating, but it happens, and I’ll learn from it, and make sure I don’t react so quickly next time.”
Allen’s measured reaction came as no surprise to O’Neil, who introduced Allen to hurdles at Brophy.
“His dad raised him really well,” O’Neil said. “Devon is a class act because he comes from a class man.”
When asked how he thought Allen would handle Sunday’s disappointment, O’Neil recalled an anecdote from Allen’s sophomore year at Brophy when Allen, his father and O’Neil were about to surrender. in Myrtle Beach, SC, for the World Youth Trials.
Allen was attending summer school at Brophy, so he had to go to the event just a day before. But their flight was delayed, then delayed, and delayed again. The airline told the trio it could fly them to Charlotte in the early morning but not to Myrtle Beach.
Rental car counters in Charlotte were closed, but O’Neil used a connection to find a car, and they drove to Myrtle Beach, arriving at sunrise. Allen ate lunch, took a short nap and raced at 8:30 a.m., qualifying for the final the next day.
In the final, he was in the lead before overcoming the seventh or eighth hurdle and finishing third. Only the top two made it to the US team.
Allen crouched down, patted the track, shook his head in disappointment, and walked with the other athletes off the track.
“The first thing he said afterwards was, ‘What are you going to do? ‘” O’Neil said. “He didn’t say, ‘My legs are tired’ or ‘I can’t believe I didn’t sleep. The flight was late. He made no apologies. Nothing. It’s where I decided I would do anything I can to help this guy.
Allen is scheduled to report to camp next week with the Eagles. It’s been almost six years since he last played football, so being part of the training squad would be a feat. But O’Neill said Allen never wavered in his goals: winning an Olympic gold medal, setting a world record and winning a Super Bowl MVP award.
Towards the end of our conversation, I asked O’Neil if there was anything I hadn’t asked, or something he would like to mention?
“Everything you write,” he said, “takes a step back from what’s going to happen on Wednesday.”
A celebration of life mass service for Louis Allen, Jr. will be held Wednesday at St. Francis Xavier in Phoenix at 10 a.m.