'Unique', 'exciting', 'unfair' - is DNA the future of athletics?

Dynamic New Athletes made its debut at the European Games in Minsk with plenty of athletes embracing the new format.

Athletics took a step into the future at the European Games in Minsk with Dynamic New Athletics (DNA) making its debut.

And the team-based format drew a mixed reaction from the competitors.

While several athletes at the Dinamo Stadium were excited and welcomed the innovative, mixed-gender event, others were wary of the new twist on athletics.

DNA in Minsk was created by European Athletics and this is its debut at a major multi-sport event.

It took place over four days as part of the European Games with the final on 28th June.

What is DNA?

Unlike a traditional athletics meeting, DNA is a team-based competition designed with the intention of entertaining and engaging the fans in the stadium.

The focus is on mixed gender teams competing in six track events and three field disciplines, each taking place in turn.

Every competition takes two hours so instead of having field events coinciding with races on the track, spectators can now watch all of the action uninterrupted.

The events are as follows:

Men's 100m

Women's Long Jump

Women's 100m

Women's Javelin

Mixed 4x400m

Men's 110m hurdles

Men's High Jump

Women's 100m hurdles

The Hunt

The athletes vie for individual medals in all nine events with all of them, except The Hunt, eligible for qualification for Tokyo 2020.

DNA in Dinamo

‘Spine-tingling’ moments marked DNA’s debut on day three in Minsk with 24 nations taking part.

The final decider ‘The Hunt’ is a mixed medley relay of 800m, 600m, 400m and 200m with the teams setting off at staggered intervals depending on points accrued in the previous eight events.

Cheers and jeers from the athletes

Some of the competitors enjoyed the new format especially the winner-takes-all ‘Hunt’.

"It was very different to anything we’ve ever done before, starting with a handicap, but because it’s a team it’s great fun as well." - Ireland's Conall Kirk after finishing fifth in The Hunt

Amy O’Donoghue, who was part of the same quartet said, "We literally didn’t know what to expect until we were on the track running. I think we’ve learned a lot from this.”

Home runner Krystsina Tsimanouskaya sent the Minsk crowd wild with a thrilling 100m run.

She took silver behind Slovenian Maja Mihalinec who won the second race.

Tsimanouskaya said, “I had the same result as the girl (Mihalinec) from the second group. We were both competing for the first place and I guessed they were going to give us both the gold medal.

"But if we could run in the same heat you would have seen the photo-finish and you could have seen the actual fight between us. So that’s a bit different, weird for us."

And while she enjoyed the innovation, she admitted finding it a little confusing.

"I like the relay format. It’s very unusual and unique. The whole format with the teams competing at different times and then one team going straight to the final and the second-best team goes by points is a little bit weird and unusual for the athletes and hard to understand."

Tsimanouskaya's team-mate Marina Arzamazova competed in the 600m.

She liked the team ethic but struggled to master the scoring format.

"It’s a very dynamic and exciting format, and there’s a nice team spirit, but I prefer individual events and classic events like 800m."

"It’s a difficult system and it’s hard to keep track of the points, but a team leader was helping us with that. In any case we had to try to run as fast as we could!"

2018 European high jump silver medallist Maksim Nedosekov, also from Belarus, didn't enjoy the format of his event.

The jumpers have just three attempts in total instead of the usual three for each height.

They then go head to head over pre-selected heights which they cannot disclose to their opponents.

"It’s unfair for high-jumpers and it’s not equal for everybody. The first group doesn’t know the future results, whilst who jumps in the following group already knows who they have to beat to get the medal." - Belarusian high jumper Maksim Nedosekov

But Nedosekov says it's early days and hopes DNA will catch on.

He added, "The format of the competition in athletics is unusual, but everything new is difficult to understand at first. Considering how many spectators came to support us, the kind of atmosphere in the stands, I think the format will go further."

Tweaks required?

Spanish sprinter Angel David Rodriguez had some suggestions for the organisers after competing in Minsk.

He said, "It’s a different kind of competition, it’s a team competition, with rounds.

"I don’t mind the format, but I don’t want the events to be always the same. So now we have 100m hurdles, next time we could have 400m or 200m and instead of 4x100m we could have 4x400m and so on."

European Athletics president Svein Arne Hansen is pleased that so many athletes have given their thoughts on DNA.

And the Swede says what he calls the "hip-hop version of athletics" is very much a work in progress.

He said, "Of course, we have received mixed feedback for such a revolutionary project. However, once elite athletes understood the heart and soul of the team event, they supported it.

"What you see in Minsk is not the final product, it is a first expression of where we want to go."

"A lot of features were not included that have a great potential to excel, for example our assault course event 'track'athlon', the toughest race in athletics. So, there is more to come!"

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