Thursday, 7 August 2014

Who should take a lap of honour?

In the first of what may (or may not) be a couple of posts about the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, I feel compelled to comment on what, to me at least, appears to be a very annoying development in the sport of athletics - the lap of honour.
The Macmillan Dictionary defines a lap of honour as:
a slow run or drive around a sports field or racetrack that the winner makes after arace or gameThe American word is victory lap.
The operative word here, I think, is winner.  A lap of honour was, as far as I have always been concerned, an opportunity for the victor to soak up the appreciative plaudits of the spectating public.
But recently, things seem to have changed.

Take Jodie and Bianca Williams (pictured above). They finished second and third in the 200 metres at the Commonwealth Games, quite a long way (it has to be said) behind gold medallist Blessing Okagbare, and yet no sooner had they crossed the line than they were over to the stands to grab a flag and start their 'lap of honour'. And it wasn't just these athletes! Every athlete who finished in the first three could be seen jogging around the track with a flag on their back, signing autographs and posing for selfies.
Is this right?
When did the criteria for being deserving of a lap of honour change from winning the race to winning a medal? I'm pretty sure it's a recent phenomenon.

But then it gets worse!!
Take this picture - on the right is Caleb Mwangangi Ndiku, the gold medalist in the 5000 metres; in the middle is Isiah Kiplangat Koech, the silver medallist. But the guy on the left, Joseph Kiplomo Kitur, well, he finished fourth (missing out on the bronze medal which went to Zane Robertson of New Zealand) and yet here he is, draped in the Kenyan flag, posing for photos as he ambles around the track with his chums on a lap of honour.
So does this mean that an athlete who finishes outside the first three has still 'earned' a lap of honour if the race is won by a compatriot?

I think we need to get some semblance of sense back into all this.
The lap of honour should be for the victor and the victor alone. They've won, they've overcome all their opponents and so they've earned that moment and they should be able to savour the adulation of the crowd without having to share it with others.
Those who finish second and third, they get their moment in the sun at the medal ceremony when they hear their names being announced and they have a medal hung around their necks - but rightly, the spotlight remains on the victor and it is their national anthem that is played (the subject of a future blog).
As for everyone else - well, they didn't win, did they? And they didn't finish in a medal position, did they? So that means, I'm sorry to say, that they just weren't good enough and have not earned the right to soak up the applause that those who were better than them will receive on the lap of honour or at the medal ceremony - and they need to accept that fact because, if athletes who finish fourth decide they should are entitled to a lap of honour, then what's to stop the one who finished sixth, or ninth, or didn't even make the final!?!
In fact, why not hang it all and do what the decathletes do after they've finished their final event and have everyone who competed jogging around the track!