The flip of a coin is about the most fair and unbiased way to decide between two options. Statistically speaking, your chances of winning a coin flip are exactly even with your chances of losing. How depressing must it be, though, to know that after months or even years of hard work and training your chances of going to the Olympics may come down to the toss of a coin? That's exactly what may happen to Allyson Felix and Jeneba Tarmoh, the two women who tied for third place Saturday in the women's 100-meter Olympic trial.
Officials have given Felix and Tarmoh a choice. They can either participate in another race against one another, the winner of which will take the third place position and a bid to the Olympic Games, or they can flip a coin. They have to decide before the end of the trails, which began on June 21 and will continue through July 1. The decision need not be unanimous. The track and field officials drafted a procedure which will resolve the tie regardless of whether the women choose the same option or not.
Given the choice between a run-off or the flip of a coin, I predict that both women will choose to race again. Research indicates that people do not favor random selection between two choices, especially when those choices will affect them in a profound way. The result of this tie-breaker will definitely affect Felix and Tarmoh, as one of them will be representing the USA in the London games, and the other may well stay home.
Why would either woman choose a coin flip over another race? Perhaps if she were not well enough to run at her best. Otherwise, the allure of an element of control over the randomness of a tossed coin would be too much to ignore. Both women have worked extremely hard. Both are phenomenal athletes. They tied already once, and they each have to believe they have what it takes to win if they are matched again.
In reality, only one of the women has to have enough confidence in herself to believe that she has a better than 50/50 shot at winning another race. If either woman chooses this option, then the run-off is the designated tie-breaker. You don't become an Olympic class athlete without a healthy dose of confidence. I'd look for a run-off in the coming days.
More from Tavia:
Tavia Fuller Armstrong is an Oklahoma resident and a lifelong fan of the Olympic Games with old photos of commemorative childhood haircuts to prove it.
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- Allyson Felix