After two U.S. Olympic runners tied for third in a race for a spot on the women’s 100-meter team, officials scrambled to devise a way to pick a winner. There was room for only one of the women to go to the London Olympics.
A day later, on June 24, they gave the runners two options: flip a coin or face each other again in a one-on-one race. The runners agreed to a runoff scheduled for Monday afternoon.
But hours before the two were scheduled to race, Jeneba Tarmoh announced that she would withdraw from the contest, giving up her position to Allyson Felix.
Tarmoh told USA Track & Field (USATF), through her agent, Kimberly Holland, that “I understand that with this decision I am no longer running the 100-meter dash in the Olympic Games and will be an alternate for the event.”
Tarmoh and Felix each ran the 100-meter dash in exactly 11.07 seconds. Thousands of photographs were taken at the finish line, but they did not show a clear winner. While a tie-breaking procedure existed for preliminary events, USA Track & Field officials could not find one for races deciding Olympic berths. An ad-hoc committee hastily conjured up an 800-word document detailing protocols for both a coin toss and a runoff.
“We are disappointed that Jeneba has changed her mind regarding her position on the Olympic Team,” USATF President Stephanie Hightower said in a press release. “We all worked hard to reach a consensus on the tiebreaker.”
Tarmoh said she made her initial decision to compete in a runoff reluctantly, feeling “robbed” from a spot she thought was rightfully hers, according to ESPN.
At first, the track timer ruled that Tarmoh had beaten Felix by a millisecond. But officials quickly revised that result, and Tarmoh learned of the change through reporters after she received a medal and ran a celebratory lap around the track.
“In my heart of hearts, I just feel like I earned the third spot,” she told ESPN Sunday.
Felix was disappointed by Tarmoh’s withdrawal, she said in a statement.
“I wanted to earn my spot on this team and not have it conceded to me, so I share in everyone’s disappointment that this runoff will not happen,” Felix said. “All I can do now is turn my focus to London.”
Felix will join Carmelita Jeter and Tianna Madison on the women’s 100-meter roster for Team USA in this summer’s Olympic Games in London. She also qualified for the 200-meter team.
Tarmoh, meanwhile, will compete in the 400-meter relay.