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When Life is Bigger Than Sport....


For the past several years as a masters track athlete one of the high points of the season has been competing with my team at the famous Millrose games in NYC. Millrose, like many other big track competitions has included masters running over the years to promote the sport. This year was no exception! We traveled from near and far. Most of my teammates live up in New England and one who was overseas flew into NYC returning from a trip from Europe. The race was great as always and the camaraderie unbeatable.

Every year after our race ends I always stay to watch the professional, high school, and collegiate runners. Many are tops in their divisions and in the world. Several olympians compete. This year was no exception. Millrose is famous for having athletes attempt records. The track is fast and the crowd is tightly packed to the track making it one of the most exciting track environments around. During these attempts they often enlist the help of a "rabbit" whose job it is to set the pace so the others can follow and then attempt to break the record or run a fast time. The men's 3000 meters was no exception.

The event progressed as expected through the first few laps. I was watching track side when I noticed the rabbit step off the track and collapse into the infield. It didn't look natural and I knew something was wrong. He was attended to by a few of the officials in the infield. Then. more and more people came to his aid. Finally, I saw a man jump in to start doing CPR. This was while the race was still going on. At one point during the race 10-15 people were running to the infield to help.

This was such an upsetting occurrence! I thought they should have stopped the race. I have been around track since eighth grade and fortunately I had never seen such a thing. Perhaps the officials had not either? But still I thought, "If I were running, would I stop if I saw a guy getting CPR on the infield?" In fairness to the runners, they may not have been able to see what was going on and I feel it was up to the officials to stop the race. The race was allowed to proceed to completion. Finally, the emcee announced that they were going to delay the meet to handle this situation. As mentioned, this is not common, especially since track athletes are well conditioned . I later found out the runner who passed out is Kemoy Campbell, an olympian for Jamaica.

The confusion continued and the next race was scheduled to start. Fans began to yell out to stop the competition until this was handled. The officials finally agreed and the meet was on hold. The issue was further complicated by the fact that the meet was being televised by NBC. Finally, Mr. Campbell was taken out by EMT's and appeared to be alive (thank god). I still cannot find any of the latest updates on his status.

This whole event got me to thinking about the line between sports and life. When should you stop and focus on life rather than a sporting event? I thought this was one of those times. I have seen this happen in other sports like football and they have continued to play the game on most occasions. Sometimes they do postpone the game or tournament. The death of basketball player Hank Gathers who collapsed on the basketball court was one. There have been others. I'm not sure exactly how I would have reacted if I were the meet director? I did feel they were putting the competition before the life of an individual . What do you think? It was hard to see and I have Mr. Campbell on my mind and hope he comes through this!


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