Donald Sanford of Israel finished fifth and failed to move on to the semifinals at the London Olympics on Saturday, after his shoes were stolen just ahead of his qualifying heat in the 400 meters.
It was initially unclear exactly what the problem was when Sanford was seen arguing with the judges seconds before the start of his heat. All the other runners were in place, on their lanes, when the Israeli runner returned, clearly upset.
At the last possible second, as the runners were about to take their marks, a judge ran out to the track with a different pair of shoes for Sanford, who sat down immediately and began frantically removing his shoes and lacing up the new pair. Within ten seconds, he had to stand up and run the length of the track.
According to Israel Radio, the runner’s shoes were stolen just before the race and it was a teammate’s pair that were rushed out to the track. Sanford had presumably walked out to the field in a pair of practice shoes.
Virtually all elite level runners keep separate pairs of shoes for racing and practice. Race shoes tend to have a lifespan of a few races only.
Despite the drama immediately preceding his run, the Israeli looked strong in the first 300m of the race, but faded just before the finish line, ending up with a season’s best time of 45.71 seconds.