You don’t win gold in the qualifying rounds — and now teen star Muzala Samukonga knows it better than anyone.
The Zambian runner smoked the field in the heats of the men’s 400m at Alexander Stadium on Wednesday night (AEST), powering all the way to the finish line to shave 0.13 seconds off his personal best.
However, he collapsed on the ground after crossing the line and appeared to be in distress as officials attended to him.
The 19-year-old won Heat 5 by more than 10m from his nearest competitor and went through to the semi-finals with the fastest time of 44.89 seconds — the first time he has ever gone under the 45 second mark.
However, he might have paid a hefty price for running the personal best and he was seen clutching at his left hamstring after crossing the line. In a confronting sight, he was also seen to be punching his upper leg as he grimaced on the ground.
After attempting to get to his feet, Samukonga fell back to the ground before a wheelchair was brought out to carry him out the stadium.
It appeared to be a case of severe cramp and Aussie athletics great Tamsyn Manou said she suspects Samukonga was suffering from “lactic acid pain”.
“He’s in liquorice there. Definite all sorts,” the former Olympian told Channel 7.
“That’s just lactic acid pain pulsating through those legs.”
When asked what that feels like, Manou responded: “It’s horrendous. He’s got it that badly. He’s got it really bad. He’s going to take a while to recover from that.
“He’s going to need an ice bath for a while.”
His participation in the semi-finals on Saturday morning (AEST) has not been confirmed.
Former British middle-distance runner Tim Hutchings told the Commonwealth Games host broadcasting service Samukonga brought it on himself.
“Maybe he thought I may never get a chance to run sub-45 (seconds) again,” Hutchings said.
“I think most coaches would say, ‘it’s great to run a personal best, but actually this is just extravagant and you will pay for it’.
“That’s a 10m winning margin — and more by the time he hits the line.
“Really, really unnecessary. No one else goes under 46 seconds.
“He runs 44.89 seconds and dare I say, he’s the word naive.
“An incredible run, but I hope that’s not the last we see of him in Birmingham.”
Aussie Steve Solomon also moved through to the semi-finals as the sixth-quickest overall qualifier after finishing second in his heat with a time of 45.98 seconds.