Athletics: De Grasse, other sprinters decry US high schoolers being penalized for celebrating

FILE PHOTO: Tokyo 2020 Olympics - Athletics - Men's 200m - Medal Ceremony - Olympic Stadium, Tokyo, Japan - August 5, 2021. Gold medallist, Andre De Grasse of Canada celebrates on the podium REUTERS/Dylan Martinez/File Photo

(Reuters) - Andre De Grasse has thrown his Olympic champion weight behind a call to stop the punishment of young track athletes in the United States for celebrating victories, with the Tokyo 200 metres winner saying kids should be allowed to have fun.

Brody Buffington, a senior at Catoctin High School in Maryland, had his school's 4x200-metres relay team disqualified after anchoring them to victory at last weekend's State Championships. In videos viewed more than a million times, Buffington raises one finger in celebration a few meters from the finish line.

"Let them have fun," De Grasse, a six-time Olympic medallist for Canada, told Reuters. "It's good for the sport and brings more attention to track. It also promotes both camaraderie and competition."

Buffington is a 10-time indoor and outdoor state champion who ran the fastest indoor 55 metres by a high schooler this year, and has committed to the University of Georgia.

"Obviously we are disappointed that Brody was disqualified," Catoctin athletic director Keith Bruck said. "Personally, I believe that if a student athlete is not taunting another competitor or celebrating in excess, they should be allowed to show emotion. In no other sport would a student athlete be disqualified for what Brody did."

Buffington was also previously stripped of a victory in the 300 metres at the U.S. indoor regional championships in February after raising his fists in celebration before the finish line and then letting out a whoop of joy.

His celebration apparently broke a National Federation of State High School Associations (NFSH) rule for "an action which brings discredit to an individual or their school."

Video of that disqualification has over two million views and created a similar social media buzz.

"That's so stupid. Why do we keep hindering ourselves as a sport?" tweeted three-time world champion Noah Lyles of the U.S., one of the most entertaining and demonstrative athletes in the sport.

"That's pretty lame honestly," retired U.S. world champion Wallace Spearmon posted on Twitter.

This rule if applied globally at the professional level would wipe out the results of some of the sport's biggest stars, including Usain Bolt, whose chest-beating dance as he crossed the line to win his first 100 metres Olympic gold in 2008 became one of the iconic images of athletics.

De Grasse and Bolt engaged in playful competition at the 2016 Rio Olympics, where Bolt's sideways grin at the cameras launched virtually a thousand memes.

U.S. women's sprinter Sha'Carri Richardson, in winning the 200 at Nairobi's Kip Keino Classic two weeks ago raised her arms like an aeroplane 30 metres before the finish line.

Bolt in a recent interview said his crowd-engaging personality was a huge reason for the success of track events during his era.

(Reporting by Lori Ewing; Editing by Bill Berkrot)

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