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. got an exclusive interview with the man responsible for reading the results of the women’s 100 meters, Roger Jennings from 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: 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.

Doubling Up, Part 3

Allyson Felix running the 400 meters at the 2011 USA Championships. She'll double in the 200 & 400 at the 2011 World Championships in Daegu.

In parts one and two, I began to list some successful doubles at international championships by sprinters and field event athletes. In part three, I finish the list.

The 100/200 Double

The 100/200 double is pretty standard even at international championships. That’s why to make my list, Jesse Owens, Carl Lewis, Fanny Blankers-Koen, Marion Jones, and Heike Drechsler had to add the long jump or hurdles to make their achievements stand out. Three athletes, however, deserve special mention in the 100/200 double department.

Florence Griffith-Joyner, 1988 Olympics – 100, 200, 4X100 meter relay, 4X400 meter relay

Florence Griffith-Joyner, or Flo-Jo, as she was nicknamed burst on to the scene in 1988 with a season never since duplicated by a female sprinter. Her world records in the 100 (10.49) and 200 (21.34) still stand. At the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, sporting long and colorful fingernails, she dominated the 100 (10.54 wind aided) and 200 (21.34, world record) and then came back to run on both USA relay teams. In the 4X100 meter relay she helped the USA to the gold (41.98). In the 4X400 meter relay she helped the USA to the silver 3:15.51. Sadly Flo-Jo passed away at the age of thirty-eight of an epilecptic seizure in 1998. Griffith-Joyner is survived by her husband Al Joyner, the 1984 Olympic triple jump champion and brother of Jackie Joyner-Kersee. Al continues to be active in the sport today, coaching at the US Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista and placing third in the men’s 50 year old age division in the triple jump at the 2011 World Masters Athletics Championships.

Merlene Ottey (Jamaica), 1995 World Championships – 100, 200, 4X100 meter relay

You could pick just about any international championship meet between 1983 and 1996 and Jamaica’s Merlene Ottey was probably competing in some combination of the 100, 200, and 4X100 meter relay. More times than not she was winning a medal, too. Ottey is the proud owner of eight Olympic medals and fourteen World Championship medals. Purely based on the quantity and color of her medal haul, I will call the 1995 World Championships in Gothenburg, her best multiple event meet. She won gold in a photo finish over Russia’s Irina Privalova in the 200 (22.12) when American Gwen Torrence was disqualified for stepping on the lane line on the turn. In the 100 (10.94) and 4X100 meter relay (42.25), Ottey won silver medals. Ottey, who is now over fifty years old, is still competing.

Usain Bolt (Jamaica), 2008 Olympics & 2009 World Championships – 100, 200, 4X100 meter relay

What more can you say about Jamaica’s Usain Bolt? At the 2008 Olympics in Beijing he set world records in winning the 100 (9.69) and 200 (19.30) and then helped Jamaica to a world record in the 4X100 meter relay (37.10). One year later at the 2009 World Championships in Berlin, Bolt “only” set two world records instead of three. He won gold in the 100 (9.58) and 200 (19.19) with world record marks. In the 4X100 meter relay, Jamaica won gold again (37.31) but without much threat of competition, they ran conservatively, safely moving the baton around the track without making an attempt at the world record. Keep in mind that before Beijing the world records were 9.74 and 19.32.

The 200/400 Double

While Allyson Felix’s attempted double would make her the first athlete in World Championship history to pull off the 200/400 double, the feat has been accomplished at the Olympics three times.

Valerie Brisco-Hooks, 1984 Olympics – 200, 400, 4X400 meter relay

At the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, Valerie Brisco-Hooks set out to make history. First up was the 400 meters, where her main rival was fellow American Chandra Cheeseborough. Cheeseborough, who would be a 2008 Olympic Coach for the USA was the reigning American champion and had defeated Brisco-Hooks by over half a second at the US Olympic Trials. But at the Olympics Brisco-Hooks would reverse their finish, winning in 48.83. She was the first woman from outside Eastern Europe to break 49 seconds in the 400 meters. Amazing, considering that her best 400 before 1984 was 52 seconds. Brisco-Hooks would come back to win the 200 (21.81) and helped the US win the 4X400 meter relay (3:18.29). Brisco-Hooks became the first athlete, male or female, to win the 200/400 double at the Olympics.

Michael Johnson, 1996 Olympics – 200, 400

Twelve years after Brisco-Hooks’ feat, Michael Johnson set out to become the first male athlete to win the 200/400 double at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. The closest any male athlete had come was at the 1924 Olympics when Britain’s Eric Liddell won the 400 and placed third in the 200. Johnson won the 200/400 double at the 1995 World Championships and he made no secret of what his goal was in Atlanta. If you didn’t know what that goal was, his special-made gold spikes told you. He was dominating in the 400 meters, winning his fifty-fifth consecutive 400 race by nearly one second over Britain’s Roger Black (43.49 to 44.41). The 200 meters was expected to be a closer competition but Johnson made that one look easy, too, running a world record of 19.32 to make history as the first male to complete the 200/400 double in the Olympics. Johnson slightly injured himself running the 19.32 and ended up scratching from the 4X400 meter relay, thus denying himself a chance at a third gold medal at the 1996 Olympics.

Marie-Jose Perec (France), 1996 Olympics – 200, 400

Much less hyped than Johnson’s 200/400 double at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta was Marie-Jose Parec’s attempt to win the same double. Parec’s better event was the 400 meters as she was the 1991 and 1993 World Champion and 1992 Olympic Champion. It came as no surprise when Perec defended her title in the 400 (48.25), becoming the first athlete, male or female, to win the 400 in back-to-back Olympics. The 200 meters was going to be a bigger challenge for Perec, who only decided to compete in both events a few weeks before the Games. Fifteen minutes before Johnson completed his 200/400 double, Perec completed her double, winning the 200 in 22.12.

Allyson Felix

Now back to Allyson Felix, whose announcement that she will attempt the 200/400 double at the 2011 World Championships in Daegu is what sparked me to create this list of successful doubles. The double will be a challenge. Not counting relay races (and Felix is in the USA relay pool for both the 4X100 and 4X400), Felix will need to run six races in the span of seven days. The 400 is first and she will have a heat on August 27, a semi-final on August 28, and then the 400 final on August 29. She would then have two days off before starting the 200. Felix is seeking a fourth consecutive world championship gold in the 200, having won in 2005 (Helsinki), 2007 (Osaka), and 2009 (Berlin). She will have two races (heat in the morning and semi-final in the evening) on September 1 and then the 200 final on September 2. Should she be selected to run in the relay finals, the 4X400 meter relay is September 3 and the 4X100 meter relay is September 4.

Doubling Up, Part 1

Allyson Felix taking a victory lap at the 2003 at the California High School State Meet.

Allyson Felix’s recent announcement that she will be competing in both the 200 and 400 meter events at the 2011 World Championships got me thinking about other sprint and field event athletes who have pulled off successful doubles at major competitions. This list is not meant to be all-inclusive, but it does include some of the first successful doubles that popped into my head. In no particular order other than to best tell a story:

Big Medal Hauls

Jesse Owens, 1936 Olympics – 100, 200, long jump, 4X100 relay

Any story of a successful multiple event athlete should start with Jesse Owens and the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. The twenty-two year old was already the world record holder in the 100 meters, 200 meters, 220 yards, 220 yard hurdles, and long jump. At these Olympics he sought to discredit Hitler’s “Aryan supremacy” belief by winning four events. In the span of six days, Owens would win the 100 meters (10.3 wind
, the 200 meters (20.7, world best), the long jump (26’4.75”), and run a leg on the winning 4X100 meter relay team (39.8, world record). Four events, four gold medals, and two records.

Berlin's Olympic Stadium, where Jesse Owens won 4 gold medals at the 1936 Olympics.

Carl Lewis, 1984 Olympics- 100, 200, long jump, 4X100 relay

Forty-eight years after Owens’ historic feat, Carl Lewis would attempt the same quadruple at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. The competition was somewhat watered-down due to the eastern bloc countries boycott of the Olympics but the fact of the matter is that Lewis won gold in all four events, competing an incredible thirteen times (trials and finals events) in eight days. Lewis won the 100 meters (9.99), 200 meters (19.80), long jump (28’0”), and anchored the 4X100 meter relay to victory (37.83, world record). In order to win the four gold medals, Lewis had to be strategic about his efforts. In the long jump he took only two out of a possible six jumps, passing on his final four attempts. Many in the crowd at Los Angeles’ Memorial Coliseum boo’ed Lewis for this decision, but it did save his legs so he could complete the quadruple. Lewis
would go on to have other strong doubles at championship meets but the 1984 Olympics was the meet he is always remembered for.

The Los Angeles Coliseum, where Carl Lewis won 4 gold medals at the 1984 Olympics. Photo taken at the 1990 UCLA-USC dual meet, one of the final track & field meets to be held in this facility before the track was removed.

Fanny Blankers-Koen (Netherlands), 1948 Olympics – 100, 200, 80 hurdles, 4X100 relay

Jesse Owens was the first man to win four gold medals at a single Olympic Games in 1936 and Fanny Blankers-Koen became the first woman to win four gold medals at a single Olympic Games when she achieved the feat at the 1948 Olympics in London. The “Flying Dutchwoman,” as she was nicknamed, won gold medals in the 100 meters (11.9), 200 meters (24.4), 80 meter hurdles (11.2), and the 4X100 meter relay (47.5). In addition, she was the reigning world record holder in the long jump and high jump, so she quite possibly would have won six gold medals had
she chosen to compete in the long jump and high jump.

Marion Jones, 2000 Olympics – 100, 200, long jump, 4X100 relay, 4X400 relay

Marion Jones’ goal at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney was to better Blankers-Koen by winning five gold medals. She came up short in her
attempt, winning three gold medals – the 100 meters (10.75), 200 meters, 21.84), and running on the winning 4X400 meter relay team (3:22.62) – and two bronze medals – the long jump (22’8.25”, less than three inches from gold) and 4X100 meter relay (42.20, 0.25 from gold). Jones performance was historical because she was the first woman to win five medals in a single Olympic Games. However, her performance at these Olympic Games would later become historical for a different reason. In 2007 she was disqualified from all five events and had to relinquish her five medals when she was found guilty of using performance enhancing drugs.

Sprint/Middle Distance Double

Alberto Juantorena (Cuba), 1976 Olympics – 400, 800

The only sprint/middle distance double to make my list was Cuba’s Alberto Juantorena at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal. Coming into the 1976 Olympics, Juantorena was known more as a 400 meter runner. Known by his nickname, “El Caballo” (the horse), he decided to go for the 400/800 double in Montreal. He set a world record when he won the 800 meters in 1:43.50. That time was over six seconds faster than his best 800 before 1976. The very next day he was back on the track running the 400 meter rounds. Three days after that he completed the double winning the 400 in 44.26, a time that was then the fastest electronic time at low altitude.

To be continued…