Gold Coast (Australia) (AFP) – Scottish runner Callum Hawkins collapsed while closing on victory as sweltering conditions caused carnage in the Commonwealth Games marathon on Sunday.
Hawkins was leading by more than two minutes when his legs gave way and he crashed over the roadside kerb, as temperatures edged towards 30 degrees Celsius (85 Fahrenheit) on Australia’s Gold Coast.
The 25-year-old struggled to his feet to continue but was clearly in distress and with just over a mile (two kilometres) to go, he stumbled heavily into a roadside barrier, banging his head as he fell.
There was an anxious wait before any assistance reached the stricken Hawkins, by which time Australia’s Michael Shelley was passing the scene on his way to winning gold.
Hawkins was taken to hospital by ambulance and Team Scotland confirmed the runner’s health was not in any serious danger.
“Callum has been taken to hospital for medical review,” team officials said in a statement. “There are no major concerns at this stage.”
After retaining his Commonwealth title, Shelley said he had also been struggling with the hot conditions.
“I wasn’t sure what was going on,” the Australian said about seeing Hawkins in trouble.
“I had a couple of mates around Main Beach who said Callum was in a bit of trouble. They told me to keep going and gave me encouragement.
“I saw him and just tried to hang on. When I was coming down the home straight I tried to accelerate but I was just gone.”
“I’m glad to be finished to be honest,” added Shelley. “I thought hopefully I can get to the finish line because I was starting to get cramps in my hands.”
Viewers watching the race on TV slammed Games organisers for their slow medical response with many horrified that fans took photos of the fallen runner.
Hawkins was by no means the only athlete to suffer in the heat — Tanzania’s Stephano Huche Gwandu was taken away in a wheelchair after taking a tumble as he crossed the finish line.
Fellow Tanzanian Saidi Juma Makula collapsed close to the finish line before being helped into an ambulance — one of seven of the 24 starters who failed to complete the race.
Shelley won the race in two hours, 16 minutes and 46 seconds with Uganda’s Munyo Solomon Mutai taking silver (2:19:02) and Scotland’s Robbie Simpson bronze (2:19:36).
Helalia Johannes won the women’s race in 2:32.40, becoming Namibia’s first female gold medallist at the Commonwealth Games.