Skip to main content

Thoughts on Disqualification in the Ekiden and Latitude in Application of Rules

http://www.47news.jp/smp/EN/201501/EN2015012001001451.html

by Jun Ikushima
translated by Brett Larner

At Sunday's National Men's Ekiden the Aichi Prefecture team was disqualified after its opening runner threw the tasuki, the sash that ekiden runners exchange, across the line to the next runner as he struggled to finish, the second time in a month that this sort of rare disqualification happened after an almost identical scene at last month's National Corporate Women's Ekiden, pictured above.  Prominent sportswriter Jun Ikushima wrote the following editorial about Aichi's disqualification.

On Jan. 18 in Hiroshima, the Saitama team won the National Men's Ekiden for the first time, but unusually for an ekiden there was also a disqualification.  Responsible for running the First Stage for the Aichi team, Atsushi Yamato (Aichi H.S.) became unsteady just before the handoff zone and couldn't quite make it to the line.  He tried to hold out the tasuki to pass it to waiting Second Stage junior high school runner Shota Ezomori (Kochino J.H.S.), but, unable to connect, Yamato surprisingly threw it across the line.  Ezomori picked the tasuki up and started running, but the exchange was ruled illegal and the team was disqualified.  The entire scene was captured on the TV broadcast.

Let's take a look at the "JAAF Ekiden Standards (March, 2010 revision)" guidelines that set the official rules for the ekiden.  Section 2.6.1 dealing with exchanges states:
1. The tasuki must be exchanged within 20 m of the exchange zone line in the direction in which the race is traveling.  The exchange zone line must be a white line 50 mm in width.
If interpreted strictly in accordance with this criterion, Aichi's First Stage runner who threw the tasuki across the line did not reach the exchange zone line, which would mean that the exchange was not completed.  The referees did their job.

But on the other hand, given the major importance and implications of the tasuki in the ekiden it's not surprising that fans have been saying, "That should have been allowed."  I have to agree that in the case of the ekiden there should be some latitude in application of the rules.  If a situation like this one happened again, while prioritizing the health and safety of the runners, if the exchange was not properly completed I don't see a problem with stopping the second runner and directing them to return to the exchange zone line to do the handoff again.

In other words, I'm suggesting that it would be a good idea to leave some room for the discretion of the officials.  That's because whether you're talking about overrunning the baton zone in a 400 m track relay or an early start in a swim relay exchange, the meaning and understanding of "exchange" varies depending upon the sport.  In track and swimming, timing technology is a crucial part of the process and the sport itself.  In the ekiden you are talking about seconds in the context of many hours of competition.  Compared to track racing, the impact of the actual exchange itself on the win is minimal and there is no technology being used to monitor the exchange.  Additionally, in ekidens with large numbers of teams like the National Men's Ekiden, the exchange from the First to Second Stage is very crowded and chaotic and you often see people fall during the handoff.

Since there is a rule specifying "within 20 m of the exchange zone line in the direction in which the race is traveling" it's hard to say that the rules are confusing, but I think that it would be a good idea to leave room for some flexibility around that point in how the sport is conducted.  In the wider world of sports there is usually a range of interpretation in how referees and umpires apply rules.  In soccer the referee's decision about whether a foul was committed has become a key part of the game.  I think it might be a good idea to have more of a spirit of generosity within the ekiden.

Comments

patrick voo said…
thanks for providing all of us 'westerners' with a better understanding of the ekiden, brett! and i agree wholeheartedly with your post and thoughts about the exchange of the tasuki - there should be room for some grace and consideration of context.

Most-Read This Week

Japan's London World Championships Marathon Squad Arrives Back Home

The six members of Japan's men's and women's marathon teams at the ongoing London World Championships returned to Tokyo's Haneda Airport on Aug. 9. Decked out in the official team suit, Japanese team captain and at 9th the top-placing Japanese marathoner in London Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) spoke to the media.

Having declared pre-race his intention to withdraw from consideration for future Japanese National Team positions, post-race Kawauchi showed no change in that intent. With regard to his future plans, his motivation as a competitor likewise remaining unchanged, Kawauchi indicated that he will run Decmeber's Fukuoka International Marathon,where his 3rd-place overall finish last year earned him his place in London. "In Fukuoka I want to break my PB and run 2:07," he said. "There are things I want to accomplish besides being on the National Team."

Kawauchi revealed that his next marathon will be September's Oslo Marathon, whe…

Ageo City Half Marathon Leads Weekend Action - Preview

by Brett Larner

Rainy weather lies ahead for a busy weekend of racing across the country.  Track is a part of the calender from April through December, and this weekend features several large time trial meets including the Shizuoka Long Distance Time Trials Meet and, closer to Tokyo, the Nittai University Time Trials Meet.  Men's 5000 m is the focus at Nittai with 37 separate heats in one day, the fastest heat led by 12 Japan-based Africans including Bedan Karoki (DeNA RC), Ronald Kwemoi (Team Komori Corp.) and Paul Kuira (Team Konica Minolta).

The main action this weekend, however, happens on the roads, and there's no question that the Ageo City Half Marathon is the main event.  Ageo, the race that university coaches use to thin their rosters ahead of deciding their lineups for January's Hakone Ekiden, is one of two Japanese half marathons vying for the title of world's greatest half, locked in a duel with March's National University Half Marathon to produce the d…

Silver and Bronze - Summary of Japanese Performances at 2017 London World Championships

Thanks to a last-minute rush Japan walked away from the London World Championships with a passable haul. The JAAF judges performance in terms of medals and top 8 finishes. Up to Saturday, only one Japanese athlete had met either, 18-year-old sprinter Abdul Hakim Sani Brown finishing 7th in the men's 200 m final as the first Japanese man to make a 200 m final at Worlds since 2003. Three other Japanese athletes had scored top 10 placings, Yuki Kawauchi and Kentaro Nakamoto in the men's marathon and Ayuko Suzuki in the women's 10000 m, but under the JAAF's criteria these were not viewed as success.


Saturday's men's 4x100 m final brought the first Japanese medal of the Championships, with Japan following up on its Rio Olympics silver with a bronze, its first-ever Worlds medal in the discipline. Sunday morning brought Japan's best-ever showing in the men's 50 km race walk, Rio bronze medalist Hirooki Arai moving up to silver, Kai Kobayashi taking bronze wit…