Mike Rowbottom

The Millrose Games brands itself as the world's premier indoor athletics event. It prides itself on its unique history, having first been staged at New York’s Madison Square Garden in 1914, a venue it occupied annually until switching to its current Manhattan arena, The Armory, in 2012.

That reputation took a big dent on Saturday (January 29) evening - a dent as big as the one made by the shot launched from the hand of double Olympic champion Ryan Crouser as it landed, apparently, at the astounding mark of 23.38 metres, thus adding more than half a metre to his world indoor record of 22.82m and a centimetre to the outdoor mark he set in last year's Olympic trials.

The problem? It wasn’t a world record, as it - belatedly - turned out.

About an hour and a half after that throw, which had already been tweeted and written about after spectators had dispersed into the huge snowstorm engulfing the east coast, USA Track and Field (USATF) issued the following tweet.

"After the Millrose Games Men’s shot put competition, officials found that the measuring device that was originally correctly located and calibrated was discovered improperly positioned during the competitions. As a result, all of the throws in the men’s shot put competition have been nullified."


Double Olympic shot put champion Ryan Crouser saw his apparent world record of 23.38 metres annulled because of a faulty measurement ©YouTube/WorldAthletics
Double Olympic shot put champion Ryan Crouser saw his apparent world record of 23.38 metres annulled because of a faulty measurement ©YouTube/WorldAthletics

The minor query - what on earth is the purpose of stating that the device was "originally correctly located and calibrated"? You might as well claim that a car had previously been driving in the correct lane until it moved across to meet oncoming traffic.

More major query - what was going on with the live TV footage as supplied by the NBC Sports broadcast? Watching the live feed on the World Athletics YouTube channel - a great facility, let's be clear - I sympathised with co-commentators Jenny Meadows and Kris Temple as they endeavoured to understand what the pictures, and results, were showing.

Crouser’s supposedly momentous second throw was not shown. Instead we were shown a throw by one of his fellow competitors, Payton Otterdahl, who seemed less than excited at his effort. Results, however, showed that Otterdahl had broken the world record with a distance of 23.38m. And that Crouser had also thrown that distance…

Main query - how on earth could this happen at such a meeting? Crouser was one of three home Olympic champions being showcased. It was his entry point to a year where he will contest the world title on the home ground of Eugene, Oregon. How hard can it have been to keep an eye on his six throws? What on earth can Crouser be feeling about this? It was an embarrassment to the sport.

And there was a twist. In response to the USTAF announcement, @nationalthrows replied: "We have been advocating for years to go back to tape measures and to bring out steel tapes to verify records. The electronic measurements have been inaccurate and extremely slow. This proves it."

It sounds like nothing of the kind happened here. It sounds like human error - which might just possibly obtrude from time to time in the measurement of throws by tape measure.

"Unbelievable", tweeted Florian Weber, an innovative leader of World Athletics event presentation in recent years, and creative director of Munich 2022.

"Have a look through the comments to see how much damage this mistake does to innovation and proper use of modern technology within athletics. We gotta get more fail proof on all levels, not fall back to Stone Age methods…"

One mark that - thankfully - did stand without need of correction on Saturday night was from the men’s Wanamaker Mile, the traditional centrepiece of the Millrose Games.

The time - 3min 59.71sec - was not extraordinary; but the context was. It meant that, at 38, New Zealand’s double Olympic 1500 metres medallist Nick Willis had become the first man to break four minutes in the mile for 20 consecutive years.

As he sat on the track, grinning and recovering and grinning, he appeared to mouth the words: "That was close!"

At the Beijing 2008 Olympics Willis finished third behind the original winner Rashid Ramzi of Bahrain, whose performance was subsequently annulled, moving him up to silver-medal position behind Kenya’s Asbel Kiprop - who is seeking to return to competition this year after incurring a four-year ban for taking the blood-boosting drug erythropoietin (EPO).

Eight years later, aged 33, he earned 1500m bronze at Rio 2016, thus becoming the oldest man to win an Olympic medal in that event.

Now one of the most genuine and popular athletes on the circuit has another glorious feather in his cap.

A sequence in the mile that began in 2003, when he ran 3:58.15 while competing for the University of Michigan at the Notre Dame Meyo Indoor Invitational in South Bend, Indiana has stretched, gloriously, across two decades.

His personal best of 3:49.83 came in the 2014 Dream Mile at the Bislett Games in Oslo. Saturday's sub-four time was the fifth he has set in the Wanamaker Mile.

Today, his latest effort on Saturday night was voted January’s Moment of the Month by followers on the World Athletics website, beating, among others, the performance of Bahamian Tokyo 2020 400m champion Steven Gardiner in setting a 300m world best time of 31.56sec.

Nice - but this performance, stretching back 20 years, really requires its own unique award.