The 100m hurdles event at the Asian Games on Sunday was full of drama, but India’s Jyothi Yarraji, rightfully, had the last laugh.
The women's 100m hurdles was stopped after the gun was fired. Replays clearly showed that Chinese runner Wu Yanni was responsible for the false start as she got off the blocks even before the gunshot was taken. Yarraji started her race in lane 5 while Yanni was in lane 4.
The judges reviewed the start of the race at the on-field screen and then disqualified Yanni. But, to the surprise of the Indian camp, Yarraji was also told that she would be out due to false start.
Yarraji stood her ground for a while and protested and the race was held up for a few minutes.
Later, the judges allowed both of them to compete and Yanni finished second behind her Chinese compatriot Lin Yuwei (12.74) while Yarraji (13.04) was third.
The Athletics Federation of India (AFI) immediately filed a protest and within minutes, Yanni was disqualified under Technical Rule 16.8 and Yarraji's bronze was upgraded to silver.
China's Yuwei Lin claimed the gold with a timing of 12.74 while Yumi Tanaka secured a bronze for Japan.
What is a false start?
In sprint races, under 100 millisecond rule, any athlete who reacts within 100 milliseconds (0.100 second) of the gun going off is considered to have false started.
According to Technical Rule 16.8, any athlete responsible for a false start shall be disqualified by the starter.
But, a note to the rule says "when one or more athletes make a false start, others are inclined to follow and ... any athlete who does so has also made a false start. The starter should warn or disqualify only such athletes or athletes who, in their opinion, were responsible for the false start."
What AFI had to say about the incident
AFI president and World Athletics Vice President and Executive Board member Adille Sumariwalla made it clear that allowing Wu Yanni to run under protest was a wrong decision as "it was she who broke the gun".
He also said that the matter would be taken up at the highest level to ensure that this kind of thing does not happen again.
"They (judges) committed a mistake, they have accepted it and medal (silver) has been given (Yarraji)," he said.
"Breaking the Gun" in athletics terminology means getting off the blocks before the shot is fired.
"Rule says you cannot break the gun; it comes on the screen (if false started). What they did not realise was, the Chinese runner (Wu Yanni) has clearly done it (false started), naturally when the first girl goes out before the gun, others will also get out.
"Yarraji went second, and they were after her (Yarraji) to try and get her out. I said from above (the stands) that let her (Yarraji) run under protest. But to make the Chinese woman (Wu Yanni) run under protest is wrong. You can't do that because she has broken the gun."
Asked about the quick decision, Sumariwalla said, "We lodged a protest. It was black and white and the decision (to upgrade Yarraji's bronze to silver) was to be there.”
AFI senior vice president and legendary long jumper Anju Bobby George termed it as an "unusual drama" rarely seen in a major competition.
"The runner who leaves the ground first is disqualified. The Chinese girl was one and a half steps ahead and Jyothi was still on the ground, she did not leave the ground. But they (judges) came to Jyothi and said you are out. Jyothi was on her block. It was a surprise to everybody, what a drama they did. It was very unusual.
"This is the first time I am seeing in such a competition that somebody is out and then in. We protested by submitting USD 100. It was to be done within 30 minutes and we did that immediately."
(With PTI inputs)