Lower Hutt boy disqualified from sprint competition for running in bare feet
A mother has been left fuming after her son was disqualified from a Lower Hutt athletics tournament for running in bare feet.
Organisers say it was to protect the 10-year-old's toes from spiked shoes, and to maintain an equal playing field. But the decision has attracted criticism from some of our Olympic running greats.
Wellesley College Year five student Henry Patterson was disqualified from competing in the final of the 80-metre sprint at an inter-zone primary school competition in central Lower Hutt this month.
Earlier in the day he had earned selection with a solid performance in bare feet.
Henry's mum, Andrena Patterson, said she felt sad that not being aware of the "shoe rule" had prevented her son from running in the final, where it was "almost certain he would have either finished first or second".
The family were not aware of the rule until Henry was told to get some shoes at the start line.
"To allow a child to run where he would have qualified on merit, and then disqualify him is cruel and inhumane," Patterson said.
"We haven't broken criminal law here, it's a children's race and we should be encouraging them to participate.
Wellesley College principal Brendan Pitman backed the boy and contested the fairness of the decision.
Lower Hutt School Sports Association spokesman Neil Sargisson said the rule was there to help protect kids' feet from spiked shoes because young runners sometimes struggled to stick to their lanes.
The higher regional grade of competition did not allow bare feet, so the rule also brought continuity, he said.
"Everybody's going to have an opinion on whether or not kids can run in shoes or not. The rule on that day is because most run in shoes."
Sir John Walker, 64, who won gold in the 1500m at the Olympic Games in 1976, said the situation was "political correctness all gone wrong".
"I ran in bare feet until I was 17 along with hundreds of other kids. Soon the kids of today will be unable to do anything due to the new health and safety rules. I am not a fan of these restrictions."
Lower Hutt champion Nick Willis, 33, who won silver in the 1500m at the 2008 Olympics and bronze at the 2016 Olympics, thought it was sad that rules banning barefoot running had been put in place.
"When I ran kids athletics, we weren't allowed to wear track spikes until we turned 10, so 99 per cent of us wore bare feet even on the hard synthetic running track."