Anyone with Internet access will have already seen this footage.
Right after Usain Bolt’s decisive victory in the men’s 200-meter final of the IAAF World Championships on Thursday, a cameraman riding a Segway lost control of his vehicle and plowed into Bolt from behind, knocking the sprinter off his feet.
Displaying impressive agility for a 6’ 5” athlete, Bolt did a backward somersault and immediately got back up. He gingerly took a few steps and rubbed his left calf before continuing with his victory lap. All of Jamaica could exhale. The king appeared okay.
It could have been much worse. Segway accidents are hilarious until they aren’t, and the poor cameraman was close to committing the greatest blunder in sports media history: using an absurd-looking piece of technology to damage the legs of the fastest human in history.
The obvious question: was that Segway really necessary?
“I watched it a few times and was glad that he was okay, but I was wondering why the heck was the Segway out there in the first place,” says Jeff Oliver, press chief for the Prefontaine Classic, the most competitive annual track meet in the U.S.
Oliver said that he’s never seen Segways used by the media at any stateside track meets and felt using them would be excessive. Underscoring his point, Oliver noted that the reason the cameraman lost control of his Segway in the first place was that he’d barreled into the dolly track of another mounted camera.
So is there any potential benefit to the Segway approach?
Maik Kuhne, a professional cameraman with ten years of experience filming various sporting events for ESPN, told Outside that Segways could help create a smoother shot than the handheld approach, as stabilizers can be mounted above the wheels. You get the gliding motion of cameras running along fixed tracks, with additional maneuverability.
However, Kuhne also said that maneuverability only makes sense when you have enough room. “The only time I’ve seen Segways used to film sporting events is in golf, where you have plenty of wide-open space,” Kuhne says.
“It doesn’t make sense in such a confined space. I don’t understand what that guy was doing there.”
The incident was likely not a highlight for Segway Inc., who were recently acquired by the Chinese company Ninebot. The old “any publicity is good publicity” mantra is understandably hollow when it comes to vehicular accidents.
But the company was quick to point out that this was not the fault of the manufacturer.
“We are sorry to hear of this incident, yet pleased that Mr. Bolt was not injured and able to continue his victory lap,” Suzanne Dumaresq, public relations manager at Segway Inc. wrote in an email. “Although we cannot verify from the footage we’ve seen that it was indeed an official Segway Personal Transporter, it’s apparent that this incident can be attributed to the rider hitting an obstacle.”