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Thu, Apr 02

An imperfect dividing line

When, at the 2012 U.S. Olympic trials, Jeneba Tarmoh and Allyson Felix lunged across the hundred-metre finish line in a dead heat, officials turned to the rulebook for help figuring out which of the women should be awarded the third and final spot on the national team. They found themselves staring into a void: there was no tie-breaking procedure in place. The ensuing soap opera, in which the athletes were left in limbo for more than twenty-four hours and then given a choice between a coin toss and a runoff, ended only when an angry Tarmoh refused to repeat the race. Her decision hammered home a seemingly important lesson for the sport: when the stakes are high, it’s better to have an arbitrary rule than no rule at all.

Read more from The New Yorker here.