Most team sports go to overtime when a ballgame is tied after regulation.
Track and field, however, apparently has no rules regarding ties.
Defending world champion Carmelita Jeter dismissed the strong start of Tianna Madisonto clinch her first Olympic team berth with
a winning time of 10.92 seconds. Madison held on for second in 10.96 seconds.
The real story came in the race for the third and final spot for the Olympic team.
Training partners Jeneba Tarmoh and Allyson Felix appeared to have finished in a head heat for third. Moments after the race, timers declared Tarmoh the third place finisher 0.001 seconds ahead of Felix.
Felix preceded through the mixed zone disappointed as if she failed to qualify for the Olympic team.
“You think of things you could have done differently,” Felix said. “Of course I’m happy for my teammate who got the third spot, but it hurts.”
Tarmoh and Jeter were soon escorted to the press conference area after their medal ceremony. While the athletes gave their statements, news broke that the original result declaring Tarmoh as the third place finisher had changed. The results now reflected a dead tie between Tarmoh and Felix down to the thousandths of a second - 11.068 seconds to 11.068 seconds.
An explanation of the change later came from USATF public affairs officer Jill Greer.
Saturday night’s final of the women’s 100 meters at the 2012 Olympic Trials involved a photo-finish image to determine third place. Timers use two camera positions for photo finishes: one on the outside of the track and one on the inside.
The outside camera is traditionally the one used in photo-finish images. In the women’s 100, the outside camera was inconclusive for determining third place due to athletes’ arms blocking a clear view of their torsos. Torso position is used to determine finishes and times.
Looking at the inside camera images, timers initially looked at the twisting upper bodies of Jeneba Tarmoh and Allyson Felix and interpolated the obscured body positions from the photo finish image. They posted Tarmoh as finishing third in unofficial results on the Hayward Field scoreboard.
Timers then immediately called referees to notify them of a potential dead heat. The photo-finish image, shot at 3,000-frames-per-second, was then analyzed by timers and referees and unanimously ruled to be a dead heat based on visual evidence. Tarmoh and Felix are both officially timed in 11.068 seconds. An image of the photo is attached.
USATF officials are meeting to determine the procedures necessary to break the third-place tie.
What’s next in this situation?
Rule 167 of the USATF competition handbook calls for ” lots shall be drawn” to determine who moves on to the next round, but the rule does not apply because the Olympics are not considered to the be the next round of competition.
Speculation is that a mano-a-mano run-off will be contested – the only question is when and where it will take place.
Bobby Kersee, coach of Felix and Tarmoh, has asked for any potential race to be run after the 200 meters, an event both athletes are entered in.
Another possibility that has been discussed is a run-off in Birmingham, England in two weeks.
Stay tuned in the coming days and weeks for the conclusion to this epic story.