EUGENE, Ore. – Justin Gatlin would pick a runoff, reluctantly. So would Maurice Greene, who would do a coin toss as a last resort.
Everybody has an opinion – even Olympic gold medalists – about USA Track and Field’s hastily unveiled options for breaking a third-place tie between Allyson Felix and Jeneba Tarmoh, who finished in a dead heat in the 100-meter final at last weekend’s Olympic trials.
On Tuesday, three days after they raced, USATF still has no idea when the tie will be resolved.
The sprinters have until Sunday, when the trials end, to decide if they want a runoff – a winner-take-all race to break the tie – or a flip of a coin to determine who gets the last spot on the London-bound team. One of them can simply bow out, too.
“I honestly can’t tell you why a protocol wasn’t in place,” USATF president Stephanie Hightower said. “No one ever thought through it.”
Surprising, since this has happened before – to Hightower, no less.
At the 1984 Olympic trials, she finished in a three-way tie for second place in the hurdles. A grainy photo was used to break the tie, and she was the odd person out, failing to earn a spot.
“There’s no question that everyone was caught off guard,” Hightower said. “At least this gives us the motivation to look at our bylaws and competition rules to see if there are any other gaping holes we need to shore up before the next big championship or Olympic trials.”
That doesn’t help Felix and Tarmoh now. They will compete in the 200 meters and, after Saturday’s final, if both make it, decide what to do next. The trials went on a two-day break Tuesday and will resume Thursday.
“As an athlete, this worries me,” said Gatlin, who won the 100 last weekend but will skip the 200. “Because no one knew about this loophole in the system.
“To run the 100-meter final at the Olympic trials and for it to be decided on a coin toss? It blows my mind.”
If left to Greene, an Olympic gold medalist in 2000, he would pick runoff. Maybe.
“That’s why you have a coach,” he said. “If he said (coin flip), I would have to do that.”