For a fleeting moment world champion Noah Lyles thought he had broken Usain Bolt’s 200m world record, before being told he had only run 185 metres.
An ambitious attempt to hold a high-tech athletics meeting with runners in different stadiums was always going to be a tricky affair, and so it proved when Lyles, running in Florida, completed the race at the Inspiration Games in a jaw-dropping 18.90 seconds.
The time would have smashed Bolt’s record of 19.19 seconds and his own personal best time of 19.50.
But, after initial confusion, his official result read “shorter distance” and it appeared that the American had started from the wrong line. Swiss television said he had only run 185 metres.
The race was won by Frenchman Christophe Lemaitre, running in Zurich, in 19.80 seconds, one hundredth of a second ahead of Dutchman Churandy Martina, who was running in the Netherlands.
The meeting was the Zurich Weltklasse’s answer to the coronavirus which has prevented conventional events from taking place.
It prides itself on the use of high technology which allowed athletes separated by thousands of kilometres to compete against each other.
“Special times require special approaches and that’s what we invented,” said Andreas Hediger, the co-director of the Inspiration Games.
“We go to the athletes if the athletes cannot come to Zurich.”
The starting guns were synchronised and the three runners in each track event shown on a split screen, although slightly different camera angles in the respective venues made it difficult to tell the leader until the finish line came into view.
In the top race, multiple Olympic and world championship medallist Allyson Felix overcame 400 metres Olympic champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo and world bronze medallist Mujinga Kambundji over 150 metres.
Felix was racing in California, Miller-Uibo in Florida and Kambundji in Zurich.
“It was very strange, it felt like practice, but not even with the team-mates,” Felix said.
“I missed the energy, but any chance to get out here and run I will take it. It was really important to get out there and appreciate the sport. I can’t wait until we can compete in person.”
Thirty athletes took part in the event which was held in seven stadiums across Europe and North America.