Allyson Felix and Jeneba Tarmoh may have to flip a coin to decide which woman goes to the London 2012 Olympic Games next month, after the two 100m athletes appeared to finish in a dead heat at U.S. trials.
The top two fastest runners in the trials qualify automatically for the London Games, yet Felix (above) and Tarmoh couldn’t be separated for third place and the final spot in the U.S. team. At the time, it was assumed Tarmoh had clinched victory by the smallest of margins – it was said she had finished in 11.068 seconds, with Felix coming home in 11.069.
On the night, Tarmoh was given the customary bouquet of flowers and a U.S. flag to wave at the crowd, while Felix sobbed at trackside. “I’m happy for my teammate earning a spot,” she told reporters through tears, “But it hurts.”
Yet as Tarmoh and the two other Olympians-to-be were giving their press conference, word had leked out that the race referees had studied the finish line photo again and decided the runners’ torsos had finished in an absolute dead heat. Suddenly, Tarmoh’s inclusion was not such a sure thing.
More than 24 hours laters, the USATF released a two-page statement proposing a procedure that would break the tie in this unprecedented situation. And it boiled down to this:
Choice No. 1: One of the two athletes can simply concede the tie to the other runner.
Choice No. 2: A run-off 100 meters.
Choice No. 3: A coin flip.
Now, the two women are reportedly discussing what action to take amongst themselves, with the USATF folks seemingly washing their hands of the awkward situation.
Several pundits have suggested that Felix should give her spot to Tarmoh, as Felix already has a spot in the 200m (indeed, it’s her stronger event, and she is supposedly a good bet for a medal). For Tarmoh, this would be her first Olympic team.
Here’s the finishing line snap of Felix and Tarmoh. Remember, it’s the first torso across the line that wins it: