The much-anticipated track and field events at the Rio Olympics starts tomorrow, and fans, far and wide, are looking forward to seeing the sport’s biggest stars shine brightly on the biggest stage. Usain Bolt, Mo Farah and Ashton Eaton, and others are expected to thrill the crowd in the MaracanÃ£ Stadium with quite a few superlative performances. Conversely, due to injury, doping suspensions and qualification failures, a number of track and field’s superstars will be absent from Rio.
YELENA ISINBAYEVA – Pole vault
The IAAF, the world governing body for athletics banned 34-year-old Russian pole vaulter, Yelena Isinbayeva, along with all Russian track and field athletes, from participating in the 2016 Rio Olympics. This is due to allegations of a four-year state-sponsored doping programme by the Russian authorities spanning 2011 to 2015. Isinbayeva, the three-time world champion and 17-time world record holder in the pole vault, pleaded with the governing body to allow clean Russian athletes, including herself, to participate in Rio.
Isinbayeva said, “Let’s be clear, doping is a global issue that has cast a shadow over athletics in many countries. So, if some Russian athletes have failed doping tests, why must Russia’s clean athletes face a ban? Why shouldn’t we be able to compete in Rio against the clean athletes from other countries?”
Unfortunately, the IAAF snubbed her plea and a last-ditch appeal by a caucus of Russian athletes to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) was also dismissed.
ARIES MERRITT – 110m Hurdles
Reigning Olympic champion and world record holder in the 110-metre hurdles, Aries Merritt failed to qualify for the American Olympic team for Rio. Merritt, who developed an uncommon congenital kidney disease in 2013 which required a kidney transplant in 2015, finished fourth and outside of the three automatic spots at the US Olympic Trials. Heroically, he won the bronze medal at the 2015 World Championships, just days before eventually receiving a transplant from his sister.
SALLY PEARSON – 100m Hurdles
The reigning world championship record holder, Commonwealth champion, and Olympic champion, Sally Pearson, tore her hamstring two months before the Olympics. Immediately, the much-anticipated clash with American Kendra Harrison in the 100m hurdles was extinguished. Like her fans, Pearson was extremely disappointed with the turn of events that ruled her out of the Olympics.
She said, “Unfortunately, it is the biggest sporting event in the world that I am going to be missing out on. It’s devastating that I can’t be at Rio as the Olympic champ.”
KENENISA BEKELE – 5,000m, 10,000m
Kenenisa Bekele, the world record holder and Olympic record holder in the 5,000m and 10,000m, was left off the 2016 Ethiopian Olympic team. Ethiopian Athletics Federation (EAF) president Alebachew Nigusse said: “He (Bekele) has a big place in our athletics history, but he has failed to qualify as per our requirements.”
Ethiopian distance running great Haile Gebrselassie and others strongly objected to Bekele’s omission. However, Bekele’s injury plagued the 2015 season and failed to produce good times, the EAF said.
KENI HARRISON – 100m Hurdles
Kendra Harrison, more popularly called Keni Harrison, is the current world record holder in the 100-metre hurdles at 12.20s. She broke the 28-year-old world record, which was held by Bulgarian Yordanka Donkova, two weeks before the start of the Olympics. Harrison has dominated all season and has won all major races, with the exception of the 100-metre hurdles final at the US Olympic Trials. Inexplicably, she placed sixth in that final and missed the opportunity to perform before the world on the biggest stage.
As she said, “The US team is the hardest to make, our country wants the top three from the trials and I was not that person. The pressure got to me on the day. I wish I could re-do that day.”