Frustration boils over for fuming Jake Robertson
MARK GEENTY IN GLASGOW
Eyes blazing, sweat pouring down his face and his blond mullet, Jake Robertson looked ready to throttle someone.
How much this Commonwealth Games meant to him became crystal clear.
Even his esteemed New Zealand team-mate Nick Willis copped an extraordinary barb for the accidental trip that ended Robertson's 5000m when in medal contention, just over a lap out.
Kenya's team running tactics and the slow coaches who impeded the frontrunners were lined up for a serve, when Robertson faded to seventh in the 10,000m final he'd led just before the bell after a near perfect 24 laps.
A gaggle of New Zealand media gathered under Hampden Park in the mixed zone, where runners must pass after their race.
A fuming Robertson had already zipped past television and radio and disappeared. But he was cajoled into returning by an official who did a sterling job, without concerns for his own safety.
All the frustration of the 5000m spilled out from the Kenya-based Hamiltonian.
Q: What happened on the last lap there, Jake?
A. ''I think everyone could see what went on. There was a lot of talk by the Kenyans and I consider it foul play, and the lapped runner just completely stopped my rhythm. But I can't make excuses, that was just a fold in the last lap, that was it.''
Q. It looked like you had an altercation coming around that final bend too?
A. ''Yeah, another lapped runner. I really don't believe that these people should be competing, they do not have the same standards as us and they're really interfering.
"They are the reason that I fell in the 5km, including Nick Willis, which I will not forget for four years and if I'm injured in four years, then the rest of my life maybe. That was my chance in the 5000m so I will not forget that.''
Q. So what can you take from these Games?
A. ''Nothing. I did nothing, I came here and got nothing.'' And that was that.
Willis had earlier trotted past without comment, too, after an imperious victory in heat one of the 1500m when he took charge then eased up at the finish.
Robertson's twin brother Zane, the 5000m bronze medallist, finished seventh to miss the final while compatriot Julian Matthews ran smartly in heat two to qualify in 3min 40.33sec, slightly quicker than Willis.
Robertson's outburst reverberated around Hampden Park.
Athletics New Zealand high performance manager Scott Goodman sat with Robertson to calm him down. The communications team offered him up for another interview.
He returned, calmer but unrepentant about the Willis comment.
''Nick was really apologetic about that, it could have been anyone but I'm still upset about the race, that was my chance to medal.''
And the Kenyans?
''Every time we made a move they would let their man know that I was coming and moved out on us. They had it all their own way and I think that led to my failure to get a medal.''
Ironically, Kenya won only silver. Uganda's Moses Kipsiro won a thriller, ahead of Josphat Bett and Canada's Cameron Levins.
Robertson is an exciting distance prospect but bad luck has followed him.
Last year his 10,000m chances at last year's world championships were stymied when he slipped in the bath and injured himself on race eve.
Still just 24, Robertson explained how imposing the Kenyan and East African distance dominance was to break down.
He and brother Zane shifted to Kenya to live and train seven years ago.
''It's been unbelievably hard for white people or any other foreign country to get in the mix. Me and my brother are still young in the sport and we're only going to get better. In 2016 [Olympics] that should be a start and 2020 in Tokyo we should be starting to peak.''
There were no New Zealand medals on the penultimate night at the track where Usain Bolt's 4x100m relay took centre stage.
Games debutant Angie Smit was fifth and Delhi silver medallist Nikki Hamblin seventh in the 800m final where they got back and couldn't make up ground.
The women's 4x400m relay team of Portia Bing, Brooke Cull, Zoe Ballantyne and Louise Jones were sixth and last in their heat. They ran 3:34.62 in lopping more than a second off the national record, but it wasn't enough to qualify.