Track and Field's brutal false start rule ended a French runner's Olympic Dream before it started

French sprinter Wilhem Belocian was disqualified from the 110-meter hurdles on Monday night in Rio after he false-started just before the gun.

It’s a brutal twist of fate for Belocian, who trained for four years exclusively for the Olympic 110-meter hurtles, only to bow out from Rio entirely, even before he finished one single race.

Belocian’s disqualification on Monday night is also an example of track and field’s cruelest rule: that one false-start, just one flinch at the line — at the Olympics, no less — can end your dreams of gold before you’ve even had a chance to start running.

Here’s Belocian’s early start:

Afterwards, he was completely gutted:

He tore off his bib as he walked down the wet track, completely in shock:

Eventually, he hit the track and started crying:

Belocian isn’t the first sprinter we’ve seen disqualified because of a false-start in Rio, nor will he be the last. But with each subsequent disqualification, it becomes increasingly clear that the one-and-done rule, as it currently stands, needs to go.

Athletes train too long and too hard to be penalised so severely for one minor blip. From 2003 through 2009, the IAAF instituted a rule in which the first false start served as a warning to the entire field. If a runner then false-started a second time after that, she would be disqualified.

That rule presents its own problems, too, to be fair. For one thing, it’s likely still disqualifying someone who false-starts once — just at a later point in time.

But as we saw tonight with Belocian, and as we will continue to see so long as this rule is in place, the current rule is simply too harsh. Anything else, even the older version of the rule, will be a major improvement.

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