EXCITEMENT, honour, happiness and pride are all feelings a Commonwealth Games gold medallist is entitled to feel when they come first in an event.
But marathon winner Michael Shelley is heartbroken over the abuse he has copped for failing to stop and help the Scottish competitor who collapsed while racing in the final week of the games.
Callum Hawkins was in the lead until he collapsed in exhaustion less than 2km from the finish line. The audience looked on in horror as the Aussie cruised past the fallen competitor and took out the gold. Shelley, 34, has endured a torrent of hate for his “heartless” failure to stop and help Hawkins, 25, as he lay on the road.
“It was just what happened. I saw the volunteer beside him and I didn’t see any lead-up. I just saw that he was getting help,” he told The Sunday Mail when asked about what happened.
“I was struggling myself when I got to the finish line,” he added.
Reacting to his comments this morning on Weekend Today, Nine newsreader Jayne Azzopardi said: “If he had stopped to help the guy over the finish line, he would be remembered a lot longer as a gold medal winner. It’s that sense of mateship.”
Journalist Peter FitzSimons agreed, saying, “I glory in stories of those who stop”. However, acknowledged that both runners were almost at the end of a 42km race: “With two kilometres to go, if I saw Elvis talking to a crocodile with a naked hula hoop dancer, I wouldn’t have blinked. Give him a break.”
When it came to the abuse Shelley is receiving, FitzSimons agreed that Hawkins should have asked for help if he required it.
“When you’re in those races, there can be no interference. No human contact. He would have been disqualified,” FitzSimons said.
Hawkins had twice been asked during the race if he required assistance, but both times he rejected the offer because that would result in him being disqualified.
Shelley, a Gold Coast local, is reportedly so shattered by the backlash he is receiving, he feels the gold medal win has being tarnished.
According to The Sunday Mail, he looked like he wanted to cry yesterday at a thankyou party for Games volunteers, where he was comforted by wellwishers, including Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove.
Games chairman Peter Beattie said Shelley was a great Australian who deserved his gold medal.
“He’s a very decent and sensitive guy, and there’s no doubt he’s been hurt by the criticism, which is totally unwarranted,” Mr Beattie said.
Shelley told the media he has reached out to Hawkins, who was released from Gold Coast University Hospital on Monday.
“I just told him I hope he’s better soon and wished him all the best,” he said.