An Olympic Dilemma: When Runners Tie
Two track hopefuls, one team spot. What happens next?
Last Sunday at the U.S. track and field Olympic trials in Eugene, OR, something unprecedented happened: there was a tie. Allyson Felix and Jeneba Tarmoth both finished in the third (and final qualifying) spot during the women’s 100m race with a time of 11.068 seconds. While Tarmoth was originally declared the winner—by a ridiculously miniscule margin of 0.0001 seconds—a photo review revealed that their torsos, the body part that’s ultimately used to determine a winner, crossed the finish line in a dead heat.
With an unprecedented outcome, USA Track and Field (USATF) into action, making a decision that, quite frankly, you might expect more from an indifferent parent than from the national governing body of a sport: to decide who will go to London this summer, the athletes will have to decide if they want to race again or flip a coin. The terms of the tie-breaker are relatively confusing (if both athletes decline to make a choice about how to decide, a coin will be flipped; if one athlete wants to decide with a race and the other doesn’t choose an option, they will race; if they disagree in how to decide, they will race—you can read the full terms here.), but the decision needs to be made by Sunday, the last day of the trials.
Bobby Kersee, the coach of both of the runners, has advised both runners to forget about the tie until after the 200m trial later this week, in which they will both, again, be competing. But he’s stated that he’s in favor of another run.
“Nine times out of 10, most athletes aren’t going to want to flip a coin,” Kersee said. “Would you go to the Super Bowl and after two overtimes or what have you, have the referees take both coaches to the middle of the field and say, ‘We’re going to flip to see who wins the Super Bowl?’ I don’t see that.”
When you really stop to think about it—Two world-class athletes stepping up to an official with a, “Heads you go to the summer Olympics; tails I do!”—well, we just don’t see it either.