How Falling On Purpose In Olympic Cycling Gets You A Do-Over
The hosts of the Olympics had a bit of a slow start to these games, but Great Britain has turned it around and is pulling in medals at an impressive pace, but yesterday they were overshadowed by yet another Olympic controversy. This time, it comes in the men’s team sprint competition (on bikes). The British men won gold (congrats), but almost failed to make it out of the first round. Fortunately for them, they found a loophole (of chasm-like proportions) that allowed them to get a restart after a slip at the start threatened to get them eliminated early. That loop hole? Just fall down…on purpose…and then tell everyone about it.
From Velo News:
“So I crashed, I did it on purpose just to get the restart, just to have the fastest ride. It was all planned, really,” said (Philip) Hindes.
The 19-year-old said that, with so much at stake in the London Olympic velodrome, he had talked over such scenarios with the British team.
“When that happens you can lose so much time… my only chance was to crash and get the restart,” said Hindes, who admitted that neither (Sir Chris) Hoy or (Jason) Kenny had been fazed by his actions.
“I think they knew I’d done it on purpose,” he said. “We were speaking yesterday, that if anything happens someone has to crash. So I did it.”
Apparently in team sprint, three cyclists ride in a single file for a lap. After a lap, the leading cyclist peels off and after the second lap another cyclist drops back, which leaves the third cyclist to complete the race. Hindes was in the “man on” position, which had him leading the opening lap. He ran into some trouble out of the start, however, skidding out of the gate and was in danger of being passed by his teammates, which would have resulted in a disqualification. Instead of allowing that to happen, Hindes just fell over, which allowed the team to restart the entire race (where they did much better).
According to the rules, in the event of an early crash, teams are allowed to restart their race. Intent of crashing, however, doesn’t matter, it seems. Even after Hindes openly admitted to purposefully taking the spill, the UCI backed the result and the IOC ruled that Britain’s gold medal would stand.
If this sounds an awful lot like the story a few days ago where eight women were disqualified from the Olympic badminton competition for throwing matches…it’s because it is. The badminton teams were trying to take advantage of a misguided rule to improve their draw in the tournament and ultimately improve their shot at a medal. The Brits took advantage of a rule that ignores intent of a crash to get a restart and go on to win the gold medal. Intentionally failing to ultimately succeed: the Olympic spirit at work!
The French team, who took silver in the event, are understandably upset but recognize that there is nothing in the rule book that prevents something like this from happening. They are hoping that Hindes admitting to it will force some kind of change so that this kind of thing doesn’t happen again. Great Britain has released a statement denying that Hindes took the fall intentionally, calling his quote ”lost in translation,” which is hard to believe since Hindes was speaking English to the reporters (though he is German-born).
Despite the intent to crash on purpose, the uproar of the runners-up, and the overall ridiculous nature of the rule, nothing will take away the fact that the Brits won gold. Down the road, hopefully the IOC and UCI can recognize the embarrassment that this rule is and make changes to prevent it from happening again. Until then, remember that the Olympics is all about doing your best at all time to preserve the sanctity of sport…unless you slip at the start, then just fall down and get a do-over. Olympics!