A painful incident occurred at the World Athletics Championships taking place in Daegu, South Korea. Cuban hurdler Dayron Robles joined Jamaican speedster Usain Bolt, both disqualified from their respective events. When showing the 110 meter hurdles race in slow motion, it was demonstrated that Robles had interfered with the effort of his Chinese rival, Liu Xiang.
A native of Guantanamo, Cuba, Robles holds the world record in the 110-meter hurdles. This gold medalist at the 2008 Beijing Olympics dashed the hopes of all of Cuba, which had calculated him to bring home the gold given his recent time of 12.87 seconds, a performance that had made him the strongest candidate among the sports press and track experts.
Robles, who was the figure selected to head the Cuban delegation to this event, stated to the press: “I’ve been in athletics and the hurdles for a long time, and it’s very difficult for there to be no contact, Liu has made contact with other runners as well… I collided with Liu Xiang by accident…” to which the Chinese runner responded: “… Robles pushed me, but I’m sure that it wasn’t intentional…”
The leadership of the Cuban team drafted an appeal but it was rejected by the International Athletics Committee since everything pointed to irrefutable proof of obstruction, an action that is penalized with disqualification in any international meet of this type.
The rivalry between Xiang and Robles had been in the limelight for a while. Prior to their 2008 Olympic contest in Beijing, all of the national and foreign press had plastered their front pages with this big race between the two front-ranked hurdlers. However on that occasion they were unable to face-off because the Chinese runner had to drop out of the competition alleging a muscular disorder.
Since then it has become almost an obsession for many fans to finally witness the clash between these two racers, and that’s exactly what was recorded and broadcast to the world on television cameras: a by-no-means pleasant collision of the two.
Nevertheless the news has not been met with great consternation on the island. Up to now there have not been statements justifying Robles or denouncing any supposed conspiratorial maneuver against Cuba, as is the custom given the degree of paranoia that Cubans suffer. But then nor has there been any statement made to the contrary to express disapproval of any possible unsportsmanlike behavior.
The fact is that really no one seems to know with scientific certainty if what happened was inadvertent or deliberate. The fact is that we’ll be seeing one less prospective treasure on the medals table and the incident will be headlined in the breaking news of world sports, where it will be described as a “painful incident.”