MAEBASHI, Japan (AP) – International track and field officials might have to reconsider a pole vault rule that gave France’s Jean Galfione the title over American Jeff Hartwig at the World Indoor Championships.
The controversial rule came into question Saturday night when Galfione, the 1996 Olympic gold medalist, touched the bar while clearing 19 feet, 8 1/4 inches.
The rule specifies that it’s a foul if a vaulter deliberately, with his hands or his fingers, tries to replace the bar that is about to fall from the supports.
Galfione admitted that he touched the bar, and Canada’s Cecil Smith, the meet’s technical delegate, agreed, questioning the clearance to the event referee. But Smith was overruled by the referee.
“He chose to take a different interpretation,” Smith said. “I can live with that.”
It wasn’t a decision that went over big with Hartwig, U.S. officials and other American athletes.
“Maybe this will finally convince the powers that be to reconsider the rule because it’s a bad rule that affects the sport and the show we want to provide,” Hartwig said, after settling for second place with an American indoor record of 19-6 1/4.
“The problem is that the rule is so vaguely written that it becomes a judgment call and takes it out of the hands of the officials. I don’t feel robbed. I was happy for Jean. But I was upset about the rule because I probably touch the bar more than anybody.”
After the competition, when Galfione was declared the winner, U.S. assistant coach Greg Foster paid a $100 fee to the International Amateur Athletic Federation, the world governing body, to protest the decision.
A three-man IAAF jury of appeals reviewed the vault on videotape and rejected the U.S. appeal.
“It was rejected after careful analysis of the super slow motion of the vault,” the IAAF said in a statement.
“It was rejected after careful analysis of the super slow motion of the vault,” the IAAF said in a statement. “They concluded that rule 172.6 (d) has not been violated. Therefore, there is no reason to change the referee’s decision.”
That’s not the way the American team saw it.
“They (the jury members) admitted that he touched the bar, but they don’t feel he replaced it,” said Craig Masback, chief executive officer of USA Track and Field. “They made a mockery of the rule.
“Either get rid of the rule and I’ll accept the decision, or enforce the rule.
“Whether it was intentional or deliberate, his hand touched it, it steadied it. He then pushed it up.”
Foster and Russ Rogers, U.S. men’s head coach, agreed with Masback.
“Why would you touch the bar other than to replace it?” Rogers said. “To make sure it doesn’t fall off, of course.
“He definitely put his hands on it twice. We saw it clearly in slow motion.”
Jean-Claude Vollmer, one of the French team leaders, claimed it’s a good rule.
“He didn’t try to replace the bar,” Vollmer said.
That’s the way Galfione viewed it.
“I touched the bar, but I didn’t push it back,” he said after becoming only the fourth vaulter ever to clear 19-8 1/4 indoors. The others are world record-holder Sergei Bubka of Ukraine and Rodion Gataullin and Maksim Tarasov of Russia.
Galfione then missed three times at 19-10 1/4.
The Frenchman had much sympathy for Hartwig,
“I feel sorry for Jeff,” he said. “The law is stupid, but the law is the law.”
Hartwig said the 10-minute delay in discussing the decision on the field threw off his momentum and timing, as he then missed three times at 19-8 1/4.
An IAAF official saw it differently.
“The important thing is that the vaulters knew what was going on all the time.” said Istvan Gyulai, secretary general of the IAAF. “Hartwig did not go into his vaults thinking he was the winner.”
Hartwig didn’t agree with Gyulai.
“I tried to stay focused on my jumps, but with such a distraction, it was very hard,” he said. “I think it’s a terrible rule exactly because of what happened today.”
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