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Olympic notes

Every misstep is costly

False-start rule won’t be changed

By John Powers
Globe Staff / September 7, 2011

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One-and-done still will be track and field’s false-start rule at next summer’s Olympics, and even Usain Bolt, the sport’s marquee name, has no problem with that.

“I’m not going to say it should be changed,’’ said the Jamaican sprinter, who was thumbed out of the 100-meter final at the recent World Championships in South Korea for jumping. “It has taught me a lesson: focus and stay in blocks. My coach has been telling me this for months.’’

The international federation adopted the rule last year because the sprints had become a pop-up circus at the starting line as runners hoped either to “catch a flyer’’ or rattle the field.

Bolt wasn’t the only big name who was disqualified in the global meet. Olympic 400-meter champion Christine Ohuruogu was bumped out, as was former 100 medalist Dwain Chambers.

And track isn’t the only sport that allows no second chance. Swimmer Ian Thorpe, who won five Olympic gold medals, was DQ’d in the 400-meter freestyle at Australia’s trials in 2004 but went on to win the gold medal in Athens after teammate Craig Stevens gave Thorpe his spot in the event.

The men’s 100 will be the biggest story in any sport at Olympus, with the hype building for weeks. While another Bolt DQ there would help the Americans, it would wreck the sport’s showcase event. But the IAAF is standing firm.

“We will not come back to the issue of the false start,’’ declared president Lamine Diack.

America’s got talent The American runners, jumpers, and throwers may belong to a headless domestic federation but they still rule the planet, topping the table at the World Championships for the fourth straight time with 25 medals, a dozen of them gold. The women were particularly impressive, winning the 1,500 for the first time since 1983 (Jenny Barringer Simpson), the 400 hurdles for the first time since 1995 (Lashinda Demus), and the 100 for the first time since 2005 (Carmelita Jeter), and making the shot put podium for the first time (Jillian Camarena-Williams). While the US males lost a couple of events they traditionally own - 400 and 400 hurdles - they won the high jump for the first time since 1991 (Jesse Williams) and went 1-2 in the decathlon for the first time (Trey Hardee and Ashton Eaton). But the 4x100 relay produced another disaster as Darvis Patton banged into British anchor Harry Aikines-Aryeetey, fell, and dislocated a shoulder. It was the third straight time that the ill-starred Patton, who won relay golds in 2003 and 2007, was involved in a blown global relay. At the Beijing Olympics, he and Tyson Gay messed up the exchange in the heats. Then, in the prelims at the 2009 world meet, Shawn Crawford passed the stick to him out of the zone. Had the quartet won a medal, the US tally would have been 26, achieved only by the 1991 and 2007 teams.

Silver springs Why was Oscar Pistorius left off the South African 4x400 relay team that finished second to the US, even though he had the second-fastest time on the team going into the meet? Because he had the slowest time of the quartet that ran in the heats. Though the “Blade Runner’’ tweeted that he was “pretty guttered’’ at being left out of the final, he still collected a silver medal for his work in the prelims and made history as the first amputee runner to do so. Pistorius, who runs with spring-like prostheses on both legs, is justifiably sensitive about any suggestion that he doesn’t belong on the track with elite rivals. Yesterday he hung up on a BBC radio interviewer who asked him if he might be an “inconvenient embarrassment’’ to South African and IAAF officials . . . Yes, the US did have a hosting candidate for the 2020 Summer Games, but the renegade Las Vegas bidders were abruptly busted by the International Olympic Committee, which reminded them that contenders have to be nominated by their national committee. The USOC had made it clear that it wouldn’t bid by last week’s deadline but Vegas rolled the dice anyway. Six cities will be in the mix: former hosts Rome and Tokyo, plus 2016 runner-up Madrid, Istanbul, Doha (Qatar), and Baku (Azerbaijan). Doha, the future World Cup soccer host that didn’t make the cut last time, proposes to stage the Games in late September/early October to avoid the brutal desert heat but the IOC would have say over event scheduling. The biggest drawback to Doha’s bid could be Qatar’s refusal to allow its women to compete in the Games, but that may change for London. The IOC will make its choice in 2013.

Ifs and oars As expected, the US women more than pulled their weight at the World Rowing Championships in Slovenia. The eight, stroked by Elle Logan of Boothbay Harbor, Maine, won its sixth straight global title (including the 2008 Olympics), the quad (with Natalie Dell of Somerville aboard) claimed silver, and the lightweight double of Kristin Hedstrom of Concord and Julie Nichols missed bronze by six-10ths of a second. The men, though, had a brutal regatta, with no medals and only one finalist (the uncoxed four) in the eight Olympic events. Worse yet, half of their boats failed to qualify for the Games, most notably the eight, which finished behind Ukraine in the B final. “No excuses, we lost,’’ said stroke Nareg Guregian. “I feel like we let down our country.’’ Thus the quandary for US Rowing. Does it send its best eight men to Switzerland next May for the last-chance event or does it keep its best four home to prepare for London and take its chances that the eight won’t qualify for the Games for the first time ever. That would be a devastating comedown for a country that has won the event a dozen times at Olympus, most recently in 2004, and earned bronze in Beijing . . . The US women’s ice hockey team might have gotten more of a challenge from an intrasquad game than it did at the recent 12 Nations tournament in Finland, where the world champs won all six games by a 48-1 aggregate, with the Swiss managing the only goal-against. Though the Americans lost an exhibition outing to archrival Canada in a shootout, they won the one that counted, 4-0.

Thrown for a loss Losing her title at the recent World Judo Championships in Paris will be a powerful Olympic motivator, vows Kayla Harrison. “The difference between me and the other girls on the podium is that I consider this a failure,’’ said the Wakefield-based fighter after she lost to eventual champion Audrey Tcheumeo in the 78-kilogram semifinals and had to settle for bronze after what would have been a winning throw was disallowed. Harrison’s was the only American medal in a competition dominated by Japan, which won five golds and 15 overall. Though the Japanese invented the sport, 23 countries made the podium . . . Good omen for the US women’s volleyball team, which knocked off Brazil to retain its world Grand Prix title in China after losing to the Olympic champions in group play. “They gave us a lesson of volleyball tonight,’’ conceded Brazilian coach Jose Roberto Guimaraes after the Yanks swept his squad. After missing the podium at last year’s world championships, the US has a chance to make program history next year by medaling at consecutive Games.

Swim for Tim Harvard coach Tim Murphy - not to be confused with the football version in the adjacent building - was the obvious choice to coach the US Olympic men’s open swim team next year. Murphy not only directed the group at this summer’s world championships, he also coaches Alex Meyer, the former Crimson distance man who was the first American swimmer to earn a ticket to London when he finished fourth in the 10-kilometer event . . . Not only did the US paddlers get paddled at the world canoe/kayak sprint championships in Hungary, leaving without a medal, they didn’t earn any Olympic spots. Their next chance comes at this fall’s Pan American Games, where everyone except the men’s K4 gets another opportunity to qualify. The Germans, Russians, and Hungarians dominated the global competition, winning more than a third of the medals.

John Powers can be reached at jpowers@globe.com; material from Olympic committees, sports federations, personal interviews, and wire services was used in this report.