USATF details dead heat procedure
EUGENE, Ore. -- Bobby Kersee is struggling to make heads or tails of USA Track and Field's new procedures designed to help break the third-place tie between Allyson Felix and Jeneba Tarmoh in the women's 100 meters at the Olympic trials.
Heads or tails just might be what decides it.
The scenarios involve either a coin toss or a runoff to determine the third and final spot on the team for the London Games.
If both athletes choose the same option, it will determine the tiebreaker. If the athletes disagree, the tiebreaker will be a runoff. If both athletes decline a preference, the tiebreaker will be a coin toss.
Confusing? Kersee certainly thinks so.
The coach told The Associated Press the sprinters won't make any kind of decision until after they complete the 200 later this week. The final is Saturday.
Kersee wants them to fully focus on the task at hand and not worry about a possible runoff -- or a coin flip.
"Nine times out of 10, most athletes aren't going to want to flip a coin," Kersee said. "Would you go to the Super Bowl and after two overtimes or what have you, have the referees take both coaches to the middle of the field and say, 'We're going to flip to see who wins the Super Bowl?' I don't see that."
The national track governing body said they want the matter decided by next Sunday when the trials end. Kersee said he will wait until 11:59 p.m. if he has to, just to ensure more rest for the sprinters.
He's fearful of a quick turnaround between the 200 final -- should both make it -- and another round of the 100. That could be a lot to ask of his athletes.
"I'm asking them to focus on the 200 meters, go through drug testing and hopefully they'll both make the team in the 200 meters," Kersee said. "Then we'll meet as a group, we'll meet with USA Track and Field. I will be in the room on the meeting, but I will have no decision-making power. I'm going to be listening, but let the athletes decide. Let the managers decide what they want to do -- I want the best for the athletes."
Kersee said earlier in the day he's in favor a runoff to break the tie. Only, he wanted the race held later, maybe even a few weeks later, on a track somewhere to be determined.
To decide anything right now, the coach said, isn't fair to Felix and Tarmoh, especially because they are both running the 200 that begins Thursday.
Felix and Tarmoh finished in a dead heat in the 100 on Sunday, each leaning across the finish line in 11.068 seconds. They're looking to join Carmelita Jeter and Tianna Madison on the team.
With no protocol in place at the time of the tie, the organization had to meet to come up with a plan, which was approved by the United States Olympic Committee.
And one of the options was a coin flip, with the rules as to how the coin will be tossed explicitly spelled out. For instance, it says, "the USATF representative shall bend his or her index finger at a 90-degree angle to his or her thumb, allowing the coin to rest on his or her thumb."
Being the coach of both, Kersee knows he has a conflict of interest in this situation. But he insisted he's only concerned with one thing: Doing right by his runners.
"You don't have to bother us about this now," he said. "You can wait until later."
Originally, Tarmoh was declared the third-place finisher and the official scoring said she had edged training partner Felix by 0.0001 seconds. But the results were reviewed, and after a lengthy delay, the dead heat was announced.
In swimming, ties are settled with swim-offs between the two deadlocked opponents. Track has tiebreaking procedures for many of its events, as well, but this is a special case for which there is no written solution -- a tie for the last spot on the Olympic team.
The USATF said in a release that two cameras are used to determine photo-finishes, one on the outside of the track and another on the inside.
In Saturday's race, the image from the outside camera was inconclusive for determining the finish because both runners' arms obscured their torsos.
The torso position is used to determine the finish.
The image from the inside camera, shot at 3,000 frames per second, was analyzed by timers and referees, who declared the tie.
Should the sprinters settle the matter with a runoff, Kersee said he won't be at the track for the race.
Sure, he will warm up Felix and Tarmoh. And yes, he will give them some last-minute advice.
But then he will head for the exit.
"I'll go on a long walk," Kersee said. "When I come back, I'll get the news on who did what."