The ‘Kilian Jornet Speedgoat 50K Controversy’ (in Karl Meltzer’s Words)

There was a bit of controversy at Karl Meltzer’s Speedgoat 50K that took place on July 28, 2012 in Snowbird Resort, Utah.

Elite ultramarathoner Kilian Jornet was caught cutting several switchbacks during the race. He was warned at mile 20 to stop but continued to do randomly throughout the race.

Naturally, Rickey Gates, who was in second place witnessing Jornet’s Zorro-like snipping of the course, was none too happy.

I Run Far’s Bryon Powell interviewed Karl (RD) after the race to get the official word on what he decided to do about Kilian cutting multiple switchbacks on the course. (Video above, transcript below)

Here is what Karl had to say about his decision:

“Today was an incredibly tough spot. We had a great competitive field at the race this year. It was panning out exactly how it was supposed to pan out. Kilian Jornet and Ricky Gates were in the front, chasing the leaders up front. Rickey beat Kilian to the top, and that was great; everything was running out great. What happened though, along the route, I was descending into Mineral Basin myself, Kilian was in the lead briefly, and he cut a switchback. That was the first time we saw it happen. Ok, one little thing, no big deal. He continued on the course and he continued to cut switchbacks randomly throughout the route. There were a lot of visuals from our volunteers that saw it. So now I’m thinking, “Well, what do I do now? Do I disqualify him? Do I just let it ride?” Every other runner, not exactly every other runner, Ricky Gates who was right behind him was a little ticked off. He wasn’t liking it very much. So Ricky followed the route; he stayed on course. For Ricky, it was a closed course. As they headed into Mineral Basin, I don’t know how many switchbacks Kilian cut. I couldn’t see. But as he left Larry’s Hole he cut a few more. He was told at mile 20 that he was not supposed to cut switchbacks. Then he did it again descending Little Cloud Bowl into the finish line. So now here I am in this tough position to say, “How do I monitor this? What do I do? Do I disqualify Kilian Jornet? Do I just let it ride?”

So what I did… Kilian ended up crossing the finish line first in 5:14, which is ridiculously fast. Rickey Gates was 5:18 and change. I told Kilian when he initially crossed the line, “Hey, I may have to disqualify you because of cutting the course.” Kilian is a very gracious athlete and he said, “Yes, it’s ok. I understand. It’s ok.” I was pretty psyched about that. He was really gracious. He’s a great kid, because I’m old. At the same time, I waited a little while to decide what the final decision would be. I talked to 10 to 20 people. I got their insight and input. The most important input I got was probably was something that Pikes Peak did years ago when a few Europeans came over and they cut corners. I don’t know if they technically won the race, but they cut the corners. They didn’t disqualify them, but what they did do is they didn’t pay them the prize money. I said, “You know what? That’s probably a reasonably fair thing to do.”

To be honest with you, I hated to do this. I hate to be in this position. Some people will think I’m a bad guy for the decision that I made, but honestly, I think it was kind of the right decision. I couldn’t say “DQ. You’re out. Done. See ya next year maybe? Maybe not.” I really want this race to continue as a Skyrunning race. I want it to continue. I made the ultimate decision of going with what Pikes Peak did, and we paid Rickey Gates as the winner. Rickey also beat Kilian to the top, so he gets $1,000 bonus. He was also under the record. So Ricky gets $4,000, and, unfortunately, Kilian doesn’t get any money. I still gave Kilian Jornet the win, because as a Skyrunning Series program, I really want to keep that. I don’t want to diss him out on that whole thing. That’s kind of how they race in Europe and in all the other races, so I let that ride.

Kilian, again, was a very gracious athlete. He’s a really cool guy. Rickey felt good about it. A lot of the other spectators that know what my decision was, they thought that was good. Ultimately, the bottom line is that Rickey Gates will get the course record, technically the course record, because he followed the course. Again, it’s such a hard decision to make. Kilian was very gracious about it. So it is what it is.”

So Rickey Gates gets the course record and the prize money, but Kilian Jornet wins the 2012 Speedgoat 50K.

I’m glad I wasn’t in Karl’s shoes to make that call on Kilian and Rickey, but he seemed to do all he could to make a fair decision.

If it had been me? If Rickey has all the winning prize money and the course record then he should have been given the win as well. It’s easy to Monday Quarterback though!!!

[source: IRunFar]

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This post was written by:

- who has written 1051 posts on Run It Fast®.

Joshua Holmes has completed 197 marathons/ultramarathons while running 100+ miles 43 including races such as the Badwater 135, Western States 100, The Last Annual Vol State 500K (3x). His favorite races to date are the Vol State 500K, Badwater 135, Barkley Fall Classic, Catalina Eco Marathon, Chimera 100, Across The Years, Savage Gulf Trail Marathon, Strolling Jim 40 Miler, Tunnel Hill 100, RUTS, EC100 and the Flying Monkey Marathon in his home state of Tennessee. Follow @bayou Follow @joshuaholmes on Instagram

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