RIO DE JANEIRO – Thirty minutes after his dreams of winning a medal seemed to wash away in a sudden Brazilian storm, Jamaican hurdler Deuce Carter received an unexpected glimmer of hope.
“My agent told me they’re trying to rerun my race,” Carter said. “I’m like, ‘How are they going to run over a race?’ ”
Carter feared his Olympics were over after a disastrous seventh-place finish in one of two 110-meter hurdles heats held at the height of Monday night’s downpour. He fell behind early, clipped the final hurdle as he was struggling to make up ground and clocked a time nearly a second shy of his personal best.
When Carter exited the track soaked and heartbroken, he revealed it was the first time he had ever competed in the rain. The ground had been slippery, the visibility had been poor and the raindrops had fallen with such force and frequency that every hurdler in Carter’s heat had no choice but to squint between hurdles.
“I’d run in rain, but never like that,” second-place finisher Balazs Baji said. “I had to assume where the hurdles were. The raindrops were so heavy I had to close my eyes so many times.”
With the deluge showing no sign of subsiding, the International Association of Athletics Federations suspended the meet for roughly 20 minutes. By the time the competition began again, the rain had stopped and the track was less slick, a massive advantage for the hurdlers in the third, fourth and fifth heats.
While the top four finishers in every heat advanced to Tuesday’s semifinals, the remaining four slots were earmarked for the hurdlers with the fastest times among those who failed to qualify automatically. Predictably, all four hurdlers who qualified on time came from one of the three heats run when conditions were more conducive.
One of Carter’s coaches filed a protest immediately after the final heat on the grounds that the hurdlers in the two rain-soaked heats deserved a level playing field. The IAAF considered the protest and came up with a creative yet controversial solution.
At about 10 p.m. Monday night, the IAAF announced that the hurdlers who finished outside the top four in heats 1 and 2 would be given the opportunity to run again at 11:15 p.m. If someone ran faster than one of the four hurdlers who had previously qualified on time, he would claim a semifinal spot.
“I was surprised and excited,” Carter said. “When I came back to warm up again, I was looking at my phone. Everyone in my mentions was saying they have to do a redo for that race.”
Carter had been by far the most high-profile casualty of the two waterlogged heats. The 25-year-old’s season-best time of 13.20 seconds is the eighth fastest among the 45 hurdlers in the field, making Carter a serious threat to make the final and a dark-horse medal hopeful.
Awarded a rare opportunity at a redo on an international stage, Carter took full advantage. He blew away the second-chance field in 13.50 seconds, comfortably fast enough to bump Serbia’s Milan Ristic out of the semifinals.
“I basically had to rewarm not just physically but I had to get my mind ready as well,” Carter said. “It was tough, but I’m into the semis. I’m happy.”
The unusual rerun was the fairest way to handle a tricky situation, but Serbia likely won’t be happy that it came at the expense of one of its hurdlers. Carter said Monday night that he wouldn’t be surprised to see another protest filed.
“I’m wondering how this is going to pan out,” he said. “This has never been done.”
However it pans out, it’s a win for Carter. A hurdler who seemed to crash out of the Olympics now has new life.
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