India would have won a gold medal in long jump at the 2022 Commonwealth Games but for a laser-equipped take-off board that twice flagged Murali Sreeshankar by extremely narrow margins for crossing the line and committing a foul.
Earlier, the take-off board was monitored manually with an official sitting close to the board and raising a red or white flag to declare whether a jumper had transgressed the line and committed a foul or electronically.
With titles decided by a margin of centimetres, overstepping the line could turn out to be an advantage, World Athletics has recently introduced a digital take-off board in which a laser beam acts like the take-off line.
Thus, interrupting or breaking that laser beam could result in the jumper's effort being declared a foul.
"The laser beam is very sensitive and could be triggered by an athlete's foot overstepping by even a millimetre. It was introduced for the first time at the World Athletics Indoor Championships in March this year and had caused an uproar as the participants were not happy with some of the narrow margins that were flagged as foul," explained Adille Sumariwalla, Athletics Federation of India (AFI), president, who is here as a jury member.
So, on Thursday two of Murali Sreeshankar's jumps were adjudged fouls by this new system with even the athlete himself surprised by the margin by which he was shown to have crossed the line -- especially on his fourth jump.
"I was very surprised by the narrow margin by which I was shown to have crossed the line. It was too small a magin," said Sreeshankar. According to the system, Sreeshankar's toe was a millimetre across the line and his jump, which would have been in the range of 8.30, was declared illegal.
Similarly, his effort on his sixth and last jump too was flagged as illegal by a narrow margin, and the 23-year-old Indian athlete was denied a gold medal as he needed an effort of more than 7.94 to overtake his opponent from the Bahamas on the second jump to win the gold.
But that was not to be. Laquan Nairn of Bahamas, the eventual gold medallist, too was fouled out in his last jump.