First Ever ‘Photo Finish’ Tie in US Track and Field

On Saturday night at the United States Olympic trials, sprinters Allyson Felix and Jeneba Tarmoh did something the sport had never seen before: tie on camera. Both runners crossed the finished line at exactly 11.068 seconds — see the photo above — and not even the high speed camera capturing 3,000 frames per second at the sideline could reveal a difference. Since this situation had never happened before, US Track and Field didn’t have any rule in place for how to deal with it. 24 hours later, they created a new rule: the athletes would be given the choice of breaking the tie with a coin toss or runoff, with runoff being the default if the athletes disagreed.

(via NYTimes via The Verge)

  • perceptionalreality

    Wow! Can you imagine how hard each of them had to be pushing, particularly at the end, since they each knew how close they were? I’m really excited for the Olympics this year because of how far digital imaging has come in the last 4 years. :) 

  • Miki

    what about giving the first place to both? That would be fair! If it’s a tie, let’s call it a tie!

  • Utahpackrat

     Sorry, Miki, in the real world of sports we are not “all winners here”.  By definition, ONE must prevail for there to be a “winner”.  Let them run again, and again, and again, until a clear winner prevails.

  • Peter

    And giving first place to both of them would be kinda unfair toward runer number 4, who can be seen in the photo to have passed the line before either of them.

  • Matthew Neumann

    I’ve solved the issue for them.  Neither won.  Runner #4 is clearly in front of both of them.  ;)  

  • Collene Tsai

    Runner #4 is clearly in front of both of them.  ;)

  • Ray Andrews

     This is an Olympic trial. So what do we do just go to the other countries and say we’re going to have two competitors ?

  • Ryan S

    Do not click this link, it takes you to a “Work from home” AD.

  • Brucew1126

    this was for third place ? winner goes to Olympics, loser stays home. Otherwise no big deal it’s 1st and 2nd

  • Mack

    If it were a tie for first, that probably would’ve been done with the next person in third. But since only three people move on from this and they tied for third, it’s more of an issue.

  • Anthony Burokas

    Can someone explain how a camera that distorts reality as much as this one is being “trusted” to determine the Official results? 

    One foot is 4′ long, the other is size two. 

    I’d hazard to say that one of them did win, but this camera cannot accurately determine it. It needs a CCD. 

  • Valentino

    The #1 runner won this easily: her leg is further along and her head is not bent forward like the other runner’s is. Meaning that the #1 runner crossed the line first, not having to bend her head over the line, and that her knee/leg is further along. . . . the bent over head of the #2 runner gave this all away. The #1 runner got to the line first between frames. . .the bent over head of the 2nd runner and the further movement in the frame of the 1st runner, you see

  • John Stock

    It does that so that an object is always the same number of pixels in size no matter how far away from the camera. That way distances can be measured very easily. Your comment “camera cannot accurately determine it” and ”
    It needs a CCD ” shows your lack of understanding, but yet your ability to offer random buzzwords.

  • Example

    Joke post? It’s a photo finish camera, the horizontal axis isn’t space, it’s time. Basically the camera has a very narrow vertical slit. Each frame builds up the image horizontally.

  • stanimir stoyanov

    What camera/lens did they use, producing this kind of distortion?

  • wickerprints

    Anyone who knows anything about track and field–which, apparently, is not you–is aware of the rule that states that a runner is deemed to have crossed the finish line when his or her CHEST reaches the line.  The purpose of this rule should be obvious:  it eliminates any advantage or disadvantage caused by the variation in leg length or arm span among runners and provides a single, unambiguous point on the body from which to make a measurement.

    They even explain this in the linked article, and the picture itself shows how this rule is applied.

  • Valentino

     haha . . . I completely missed that!

    “Oh, Somsonite. . . . ” ;)

  • Lawrence DeVore

    Thankfully, implants didn’t add to the controversy.

  • Mike

    You obviously don’t have a clue.

  • Ben

    What I want to know is, who is that in the top left corner of the shot?

    #4 is the clear winner.


  • stanimir stoyanov

    The tie is for the third place, I believe.

  • LOLmetal

    …i’m sorry, i must be new here. people still give half a shit about the olympics???

  • Deborah Brandy Roice

    Thank you wickerprints for your explanation! I know nothing about track and field, but what little I have seen through my life, I do recall seeing runners push through with their chest in a close race at the finish line. Looking at this photo finish, it now explains why it’s such a tough call. Thank you to the others that explained why there was the distortion in this photo finish. I’ve often wondered about that in other sports where there have been photo finishes!

  • aironay

    You are as categorical as wrong…
    There is no perception of distance to the camera here, and thus no perspective compensation at all, as you describe it. Where did you got that idea from?

    This is a vertical line scan camera. Horizontal axis represents time not position. 

  • HooksaN

    This is really useful information. It is a genuine shame it had to be presented in such an obnoxious way;

    “Anyone who knows anything about track and field–which, apparently, is not you–”
    “The purpose of this rule should be obvious:”

    Really? Why do you want to be ‘that guy’?

    regardless, thank you for the explanation.

  • Skinner Photographs

    The lady on the bottom would run faster with a fully grown left foot, the runner on the right would have run faster without that giant ski on her left foot… just sayin’.

  • Padded

    Padded bras or bigger breasts should help here, I guess.

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  • Kentoutcourt

    I have no problem with ties. I do, however, have a problem with coin toss, that’s totally ridiculous!

    If you MUST have a winner, why don’t they check something else than the chest for a tie-breaker? For example, if the chest crossed the line at the same time, check the head, or the first body part… we’ll see athletes starting to run like zombies towards the end! :)

    I doubt it ever gets voted, but I would tend to give it to the person who had the worse start off the blocks. This person is obviously a faster runner.

  • EvanGilmore

    I understand that this is a vertical line scan camera, and whichever runner’s bodypart appears furthest to the left appeared first in the camera’s field. That being said, doesn’t the image clearly show runner number 2 (with the “ski boot”) as the winner???