Kemoy Campbell Collapses at the Millrose Games


Andrew Hahn

Jamaican runner, Kemoy Campbell, suddenly collapsed in the middle of the 3000-meter race at the Millrose Games. He required CPR and was transported out of the Fort Washington Avenue Armory on a stretcher in an apparent unconscious state. This frightening event overshadowed the amazing performance by the Ethiopian runner, Yomif Kejelcha, who missed the world indoor mile record by 0.01 seconds.

The Millrose Games is billed as the world’s longest-running and most prestigious indoor track & field competition. It began in 1908 and held its annual meet at the Madison Square Garden from 1914 to 2011. Since 2012, the event has been run at the Armory in Washington Heights, home to a world-class track surface ideal for record-breaking times. The featured event is the Wanamaker Mile, which was first run in 1926.

Kemoy Campbell is a 28-year-old Jamaican distance runner who represented his country in the 2016 Rio Olympics in the 5000 meters. He was hired by the Millrose Games to be a “rabbit,” serving as the pacesetter for the 3000-meter race to increase the chance that elite athletes can break records. Typically, the rabbit will be in the front of the pack for the first half of the race to maintain a predetermined pace, then stop running. About 1000 meters into the race, Campbell suddenly collapsed and fell off the track. To most of the fans in attendance, it may have appeared that he tripped or was pushed. However, to those who were near the action, it was clear he lost consciousness first and then fell.

A man who appeared to work for the event was a few yards from Campbell when he collapsed. He immediately went to the athlete’s aide and told another individual to get more help. Within seconds, he realized the situation was much more urgent than he initially thought, as the runner was not responsive. The man then started screaming and waving his arms. At the same time, the fans in the stands next to Campbell were also yelling for someone to get help. While this was going on, the rest of the athletes were still competing, running right next to their unconscious colleague.

A few minutes later, a woman wearing a uniform emerged from the opposite corner of the venue. She was morbidly obese and carrying a bag. The time it took her to run to Campbell seemed like an eternity to the shocked fans near Campbell’s lifeless body. When she got to the unconscious runner, she started doing CPR, pressing his chest repeatedly with her arms. While this tragic event was happening, the runners continued to race around the track. It was a surreal site.

Slowly, others surrounded Campbell. Another woman, not wearing a uniform, took over CPR duties. After a short period, she stopped CPR. From the stands, Campbell was no longer visible, as a crowd gathered around the athlete. Meanwhile, the 3000-meter race finally ended and the announcer congratulated the winner.

Eventually, paramedics and firefighters came to Campbell’s aide. They brought a stretcher to transport the runner. While this was going on, the announcer introduced the shot put finalists who were to compete right next to Campbell. The fans near Campbell screamed in disbelief, so the announcer said that the event would be delayed. A few minutes later, Campbell was placed on the stretcher and wheeled out of the Armory. He had an oxygen mask on and was attached to a heart monitor. As the crowd cheered as Campbell was moved out of the Armory, he did not appear to be conscious.

In a typical professional sporting event, the competition stops to take care of injured athletes. When a football player lies unconscious, even if he is on the sidelines, it’s hard to imagine that the play will continue unless medical professionals have fully attended to the injured player’s problems. It’s not possible to have a timeout during a running race and finish after taking care of a medical emergency. However, when it was clear to everyone in the stands who saw Campbell go down that his condition was serious, it seemed logical to stop and cancel the race. Hopefully, the Jamaican runner will recover fully from the incident. However, if he has a permanent disability (or something terribly worse), it’s not hard to imagine that the runners continuing the race may have interfered with a quicker response to the emergency.