After Allyson Felix and Jeneba Tarmoh finished in a dead heat for third place and the final U.S. spot for the women's 100-meter Olympic team, USA Track and Field officials had to figure out a tiebreaker. They released procedures on Sunday night, and they are both thorough and a little weird.
[ Photos: See more images of Allyson Felix ]
First off, the runners will decide if they will use a run-off or a coin flip. If they can't agree, they will default to a run-off, meaning if one of the athletes asks for a run-off, they're doing a run-off.
It gets more ridiculous if the runners default to a coin flip.
USATF shall provide a United States Quarter Dollar coin with the image of George Washington appearing on the obverse hub of the coin and an Eagle appearing on the reverse hub of the coin. Each athlete shall inspect the coin to ensure the obverse and reverse hubs of the coin reflect the images of George Washington and the Eagle, respectively.
The athlete with the highest world ranking according to the IAAF rankings as of 8 am PST on the date of the coin toss shall declare his or her choice of "heads" for the obverse hub or "tails" for the reverse hub. If the athlete with the highest world ranking chooses not to declare his or her choice, that athlete shall be assigned the choice of heads for the obverse hub of the coin. The other athlete shall be designated, by default, the choice either: 1. Not chosen by the highest-ranking athlete or 2. Tails should the highest-ranking athlete choose not to declare his or her choice.
The choices shall be confirmed by a representative chosen by USATF. Once the choices have been made and confirmed by the USATF representative, each athlete shall face each other and 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.
Once the coin has fallen to the ground, the USATF representative shall, without touching or lifting the coin, view the coin and determine whether the coin has landed on the obverse or reverse hub. In the event that the coin does not fall completely on either the obverse or reverse hub, the USATF representative shall repeat the toss process as described above.
The athlete who chose the hub that is displayed shall be declared the winner by the USATF representative.
No, seriously. The angle of the finger when flipping the coin is prescribed, as is what will happen if the coin magically lands on its side. They also require a quarter, so don't try to pass off a nickel because the athletes get to inspect it.
The worst part of these intricate procedures is not the definition of what is heads and what is tails, though it's pretty evident George Washington's head is on the heads side of the quarter. No, it's how USA Track and Field officials are passing the buck to the athletes.
Tiebreak procedures should not have been left up to the athletes. Could you imagine NFL referees asking the New York Giants and the San Francisco 49ers how they wanted to handle overtime during their playoff game? USA Track and Field officials dropped the ball when they didn't have a dead heat procedure in place. They did it again when they asked the athletes to make the decision.
We won't find out what Felix and Tarmoh decide until later this week, though the U.S. wants to have its team selected by July 1. As we wait, hopefully track and field officials are practicing their coin flipping and finger angling skills.
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