How A Coin Toss May Decide Who Goes To 2012 Olympics With Jeter and Madison, by Elliott Denman, note by Larry Eder

Elliot Denman did his column on the conundrum of the 100 meter dead heat. My viewing of the photo is that there is a dead heat. Here is how USATF plans to work out the 100 meter dead heat in the third position:

photo_finish.jpgPhoto finish: Jeneba Tarmoh and Allyson Felix, 100 meters
2012 U.S. Olympic Trials, Photo by

By Elliot Denman

EUGENE, Oregon
June 24, 2012

Track and field has always prided itself as being the ultimate sport of precision.

So how can in the highest heavens can it allow a major decision - who runs in the Olympic Games, who doesn't? - to be decided by something as imprecise as the toss of a coin?

But - can you possibly believe this ? - that's the verdict the major domos of USA Track and Field, the sport's national governing body - have given us.
Well, almost.

Backtrack to Saturday afternoon at Hayward Field, and the women's 100-meter final at the Olympic Trials.

Well, Carmelita Jeter won it pretty decisively, in all of 10.92 seconds.

And it was perfectly obvious that Tianna Madison ran second in 10.96.

So they're going to London, no ifs, no buts.

But who will join them on the starting line at Olympic Stadium?
That's the mega-pound sterling question awaiting any kind of a perfect answer.

Will it be Jeneba Tarmoh, who was initially declared third in 11.07?

Or Allyson Felix, who was originally/officially declared fourth, also in 11.07, but still a smidgeon back of Tarmoh?

Jeter-FelixSF-USOlyT12.jpgJeter and Felix gut it out side-by-side, 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials
Photo by

But hold everything - which is what the sport's top brass immediately did soon as  they were alerted to the possibility of a question.

Re-examination of the finish-line photo disclosed that Tarmoh's actual time was 11.068 (you always roll these ticks up, never down, in official protocol) ...and that Felix's was - would you believe it ? 11.068, too.

And that's what prompted all the head-shaking as the question simmered for a day.

Finally, at the conclusion of a busy Sunday at Hayward, a press conference was convened at which USATF's resolve-it-all solution went public.

It generated a two-page press release which said, basically, that:

(a)    If either athlete is willing to vacate the opportunity, the other would get the call to run in London.. (Aside: don't be silly, this will never transpire.).

(b)   If that doesn't happen, the athletes will have their choice of  either doing a run-off, or doing a coin toss.

(c)    If one of them says "let's run" but the other says "let's toss,"  it will be the toss that decides.

But this will be no ordinary toss, of the handiest coin in the tosser's pocket.

USATF's release tells us that the coin will be a "United States quarter-dollar coin with the image of George Washington appearing on the obverse hub of the coin and an eagle on the reverse side of the hub."

The sprinter with the higher world ranking will get to call the "heads" or "tails" of it all.

(The sprinter with the lower world ranking will then get to shake in place.)

Even the coin-tossing procedure gets closely defined:

"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. In one single action, the USATF representative shall toss the coin into the air, allowing the coin to fall to the ground.

"The athlete who chose the hub that is displayed shall be declared the winner by the USATF representative."

But get this:

"In the event that either or both athletes refuses to participate in the coin toss, the USATF representative shall assign the athlete with the higher world ranking 'heads' and the other athlete 'tails.' ''

Nevertheless, some major questions remain unanswered.

Such as:

"What happens if the coin toss is wind-aided?"

"What happens if the flipper is detected using improper technique?"

"What happens if the athletes (based on those identical 11.068s) are tied in the world rankings?"

Bottom lines:

Why couldn't the sport's deepest thinkers consider such clearly cleverer  alternatives as:

(a ) Taking it all back to the timers and demanding a photo check-able to the 1000th of a second, not a mere 100th?

(b) Mandating, not option-izing , that run-off?  Or even a best two-of-three run-off?  Or four-of-five?

(c ) Javelins at 30 paces.

(d ) A serious game of "Jeopardy?"

( e) A Greco-Roman wrestle-off, no holds (above the waist) barred ?

Why-why-why not?

Anything-anything-anything at all beats a coin toss.

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