LONDON - He was the final Israeli to win a ticket to the London Games and the first to compete in the athletics competitions. Donald Sanford, who runs the 400-meter dash, dreamed of the moment when he would line up for an Olympic sprint. But the moment turned into a nightmare.
The immigrant from the United States sat on his lane looking furious and fussing with his shoes while his rivals were warming up and preparing mentally for the race. Sanford finished fifth with his fastest time of the year, 45.71 seconds. But it wasn't enough to qualify for the semifinals. He still seemed to be raging when it was all over.
He went up to the head of Israel's Elite Sports Unit and yelled that someone had stolen his running shoes. According to Sanford, he warmed up at a track next to the stadium, and when he finished he noticed that his running shoes were gone. At that moment he was called to the room where the athletes wait before entering the stadium, so he couldn't contact the Israeli delegation.
Organizers suggested that he run with his warm-up shoes, but he refused. Canadian sprinter Daundre Barnaby saved the day by lending Sanford the shoes with which he had just finished the previous heat. Barnaby didn't advance to the semifinals either, but at least he showed the Olympic spirit.
Sanford spent his final moments arguing with the organizers and fitting on his loaner shoes instead of warming up. Just a few seconds before the gun he tied his laces and even got off to a decent start, but his Olympic run ended 45.71 seconds later.
He was ranked 26th overall, two places and a tenth of a second from the sprinters who reached the semifinals. Maybe with a decent warm-up and his own shoes, he would have made the semifinals.