Having built a commanding two-minute lead in gruelling heat, Scotland’s Callum Hawkins was on the brink of one of the country’s defining Commonwealth Games achievements.
The 25-year-old was less than 2,000m from crossing the finish line as Scotland’s first Commonwealth Games marathon champion on the Gold Coast yesterday when his body started to wobble.
Battling heat exhaustion in conditions approaching 28C, Hawkins fell onto the road. He bravely returned to his feet and, visibly wavering, managed to continue for around 100m before collapsing again on Sundale Bridge.
Spectators took photos of him lying distressed on the road as two agonising minutes dragged by without any medical attention. The worrying scenes have sparked condemnation from luminaries of the sport over the handling of events by Commonwealth Games organisers.
Hawkins was eventually put on a stretcher and taken by ambulance to hospital as glory turned to agony. Australian Michael Shelley benefited from the Scot’s downfall and repeated the gold he took at Glasgow 2014 four year ago.
The Renfrewshire-born runner was being kept overnight in hospital as a precaution ahead of further tests today. A statement from Hawkins said: “I am now feeling much better.”
Hawkins was seen to hit his head on a metal barrier during the second fall before rolling around on the ground in clear distress.
Three-time London Marathon winner Paula Radcliffe said there were “big questions” for Commonwealth Games organisers to answer, while BBC Sport commentator Steve Cram branded the lack of action a “disgrace”.
Gold Coast organising committee chief executive Mark Peters was forced to defend the procedures to deal with such an eventuality as Hawkins’ Scottish team-mates also reacted angrily to the lack of medical attention. He condemned the group of spectators who stood ghoulishly to record his moments of misery.
“The health of the athlete is absolute prime,” Mr Peters said. “Sometimes medical people arrive too and the athlete has to make a decision as to whether they want to go on or not and I understand that was part of a discussion.
“There’s no reason there would be deliberate delays and our thoughts are with the athlete. We will find out what happened and learn from that.”
Commonwealth Games Scotland chairman Paul Bush confirmed a formal complaint had been lodged. “He was in trouble for a long time and our concern was when he fell for the second time,” he said. “We would have hoped people would have got to him quicker because the second time he was in serious trouble.”
Scottish Athletics chair Ian Beattie added: “Questions have to be asked on the medical side. There was also the fact that the minute the medics touch him, he’s disqualified. We weren’t there and we don’t know what he was saying to them, but there is a point where the medics have to make a decision for him.
“But it was absolutely devastating to watch. The fact he was running though the gutter let you know something wasn’t right because that surface wasn’t good. When he collapsed into the side, it was devastating... hopefully he’ll be able to get over the disappointment.”