Gold Coast (Australia) (AFP) – Commonwealth Games organisers slammed bystanders for taking pictures of stricken runner Callum Hawkins after his dramatic collapse while leading the marathon on Sunday.
Officials also defended the medical response after the Scot, who was clearly unsteady and fell over twice, lay unassisted on the ground for some time before help arrived.
In temperatures nudging 30 degrees Celsius (85 Fahrenheit) on Australia’s Gold Coast, Hawkins was ahead by more than two minutes when his legs buckled and he plunged onto a kerb.
The 25-year-old struggled to his feet to continue but was clearly in distress and shortly afterwards, 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 Hawkins, by which time Australia’s Michael Shelley was passing the scene on his way to winning gold.
Organising committee chief executive Mark Peters took issue with bystanders who were seen filming Hawkins on their phones as he lay on the ground.
“I like many others was distressed to see a wonderful athlete like Callum collapse during the closing stages of today’s marathon,” said Peters.
“I was also concerned about the behaviour of a small number of bystanders who chose to take images. This is not in keeping with the spirit of GC2018.”
Hawkins was taken to hospital in an ambulance, where he was sitting up and talking and not thought to be in serious danger, Team Scotand said.
Medical staff with radios were posted every 500 metres along the course, the organising committee said, adding that medical help was given to Hawkins when he requested it.
– Cramping up –
Under marathon rules, runners are disqualified if they accept medical aid. Peters said help arrived “within agreed response guidelines and time-frames”.
BBC commentator Steve Cram called the wait for medical attention “a disgrace”, while TV viewers also criticised the response and the fans who took images of Hawkins.
Seven of the 24 starters failed to complete the race, including Tanzania’s Saidi Juma Makula, who collapsed close to the finish line before being helped into an ambulance.
Another Tanzania runner, Stephano Huche Gwandu, took a tumble as he crossed the finish line and was helped into a wheelchair.
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.”
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.