Even cameras rolling at 3,000 frames per second could not discern a winner in Saturday's 100-meter dash.
USA Track & Field
In 1882, early photographer Eadweard Muybridge wrote to the magazine Nature with a prediction: "In the near future ... no race of any importance will be undertaken without the assistance of photography to determine the winner of what might otherwise be a so-called 'dead heat.' ''
He was right about the first part: Photography is routinely used for the determining a race's winner -- whether for human or horse.
But photography has now also produced -- or, perhaps, merely recorded -- a scenario Muybridge thought was impossible: a dead heat. "It is unnecessary for me to inform you, that there can be no such thing as a 'dead heat'," he had asserted, a bit too confidently: Over the weekend sprinters Allyson Felix and Jeneba Tarmoh finished so closely -- both coming in at 11.068 seconds -- that no amount of high-speed photography (the cameras shoot 3,000 frames per second) can discern who placed third and who came in fourth. There are three spots on the US Olympic team for this event.
Like Muybridge, track officials had not expected such a outcome, and there were no procedures in place for handling it. Yesterday, USA Track & Field and the United States Olympic Committee announced their decision: If neither woman willingly gives up her slot, they will have the option of choosing between a tie-breaker race and a coin toss. If one wants a re-match and the other a coin toss, then a run-off. If they refuse to declare, then a coin toss it is. This procedure will apply to other dead heats going forward.