In Olympic sports, fourth is considered the cruelest place to finish. In the womens' 100 meters on Saturday nobody finished fourth. There was a tie for third, and there's the rub.
If two runners had tied for first, no problem. If they'd tied for second, no problem, but third? That's a problem because only three athletes from each country can compete in an event at the Olympics, and USATF, the sport's US governing body, we find out, has no process in place to settle this conundrum.
Many solutions come to mind. The US could petition the IOC for an exception, but that's not likely to happen. One of the two athletes could be be selfless and give up her chance to run the 100 and let the other go. A cruel choice for any athlete to make. Instead USATF president Stephanie Hightower told Chicago Tribune reporter Phil Hersh that the organization has a plan to address the issue, but is awaiting USOC approval.
Meanwhile much media attention that could have been devoted to the sprint and hurdle races that were run, Olympic team members selected, and a World Record in the decathlon have had to share attention with the fact that it may take at least a day to come up with a plan on an issue that as yet has no solution because nobody within USATF anticipated that there would be a tie for third place in any event at the Olympic Trials.
On Friday night, two fourth place finishers in the men's and women's Olympic Marathon Trials ran past their disappointment to book a place on the US team. Amy Hastings won the women's 10K and Dathan Ritzenhein finished third in the men's 10K race. Allyson Felix and Jeneba Tarmoh are running the 200 in the Trials and both could follow their distance running counterparts onto the team in that event, but only one can run the 100. Where is Solomon when you need him, or the more appropriate question, why do we need a "Solomon" to settle this?