American Noah Lyles briefly appeared to have set an astonishing new 200m world record of 18.90 seconds in the Inspiration Games, before it was revealed he ran only 185m.
Lyles’ time would have obliterated the 19.19-second mark set by Jamaican great Usain Bolt back in 2009.
Given Lyles’ personal best is 19.50 and he was running into a strong headwind, the time was immediately challenged.
“That cannot be right!” said BBC commentator Steve Cram.
“Even he has got his hands in the air wondering what is going on!”
Around five minutes later Cram revealed world champion Lyles, running on his own in Florida, had started from the wrong lane and run 15m less than his rivals at other tracks.
The farcical ending to one of the event’s headline races will be a major embarrassment to Inspiration Games organisers, who banked on television and timing technology to make a major international athletics event possible despite the restrictions of coronavirus.
Athletes competed from different venues around the world with starting guns firing simultaneously and athletes’ efforts shown alongside each other on television in a split-screen broadcast.
Lyles, who won the 200m world title in Doha last year, reached the bend in Florida well ahead of opponents Christophe Lemaitre and Churandy Martina, competing in Switzerland and the Netherlands respectively.
He powered across the line but his ‘winning’ time was revealed to have been aided by an error in the placement of his starting blocks, handing him a 15m headstart.
Lyles’ younger brother and fellow athlete Josephus was one of those who immediately reacted with disbelief.