Chanman's Blog


There are no ties in track

Jeneba  Tarmoh and Allyson Felix have many things in common.

–          They both were multiple time California state champions in high school. Felix, 26, won the 100 meters three times (2001, 2002, 2003) and won the 200 meters two times (2002 and 2003) for Los Angeles Baptist High School.  Tarmoh, 22, won the 100 meters and 200 meters in both 2006 and 2007 for Mt. Pleasant High School in San Jose. Combined they swept the 100 and 200 at the California State Meet four times (2002, 2003, 2006, and 2007) in a six year span.

–          Tarmoh and Felix are both currently coached by Bobby Kersee.

–          Felix and Tarmoh both came in third at the 2012 Olympic Trials women’s 100 meters.

WHAT?! How can there be a tie?

When the women’s 100 meter final ended, it was clear and quickly announced that Carmelita Jeter (10.92) was first and Tianna Madison (10.96) was second. But it was a proverbial photo finish for third between Felix and Tarmoh. All eyes at Hayward Field (21,795 spectators plus athletes, coaches, officials, and volunteers) were on the scoreboard waiting for the result to flash up. The announcer alluded to the fact that they weren’t trying to be dramatic, only that it was close and the official was reviewing the computer timing photo. After what seemed like minutes but was probably only 30 seconds, the result popped up on the scoreboard. Third place went to Jeneba Tarmoh in 11.07. Felix was given the same time. The announcer told the crowd that one thousandth of a second separated Tarmoh and Felix.

Tarmoh was elated to make her first Olympic team. Felix was devastated. An hour later Tarmoh was at a press conference where she was being introduced to the media as an Olympian in the 100 meters.

However, behind the scenes and unbeknownst to Tarmoh, there was some question about the result. LetsRun.com got an exclusive interview with the man responsible for reading the results of the women’s 100 meters, Roger Jennings from Flashresults.com. Jennings explained that he initially called Tarmoh third because her right arm was ahead of Felix’s torso. However, he immediately called in the meet referees to confirm that this was the correct call. In the end the meet referees (and Jennings) agreed that what they saw in the photo was a dead heat. The United States of America Track & Field (USATF) released a statement to this effect late Saturday evening, about three hours after the race. At that point, they said they were in meetings to determine how the final spot on the Olympic team would be decided.

As the scoreboard shows, there can be a tie in track & field.

I do not dispute the decision to call the race a tie at 11.068 seconds. I do wish that meet officials had handled this better. They should have immediately let everyone know that the result was in question. Tarmoh should not have been at a press conference thinking she had placed third. This is yet another black eye for the sport of track & field because when the television broadcast signed off after the meet, the television viewing world thought Tarmoh had beaten Felix.

But what’s done is done. Next the question became how will the tie be resolved? The only rule in the USATF rulebook is Rule 167, which suggests that: the tying competitors shall be placed in the next round if it is practical to do so. If that is not practical, lots shall be drawn to determine who shall be placed in the next round.

USATF official met to discuss how to handle this situation and around 24 hours after the actual race announced their dead-heat procedures. It basically says that the tie will be broken either by one athlete declining their spot, a run-off, or a coin toss. There are exacting details on the type of coin to be used and the finger position of the person flipping the coin. I cannot do the actual procedures justice so you will just have to read it yourself at this link: http://usatf.org/News/Dead-heat-procedures-announced.aspx. I highly recommend reading the procedures if you have some time and want a good laugh (or ever wondered what your $30 USATF membership fee is paying for).

If you were to ask me what I think is going to happen, I would say that one of the athletes will decline their spot in the 100 meters so that their teammate can go without the need for a run-off or coin flip. I believe that this will not be determined, though, until after the women’s 200 meters, which both Felix and Tarmoh are running, is completed (which is Saturday June 30).

No matter what, this hasn’t been your usual women’s 100 meters.

About 30 meters into the women’s 100 meter final. 70 meters later is when the controversy would begin.

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