The Women’s 800m final at the U.S. Olympic Track & Field Trials was chaotic. A tumble in the homestretch gave way for Kate Grace to nab the victory in 1:59.1. Ajee Wilson and Chrishuna Williams will join Grace in Rio. It was a big win for the underdog, but it wasn’t the most satisfying win.
A slight misstep or a push caused Alysia Montano to clip Brenda Martinez and both women fell to the track. This also caused Raevyn Rogers and Molly Ludlow to lose their stride. Meanwhile, the collision allowed Grace to find an opening and thunder home. It was a disastrous race.
Martinez was able to get up quickly and finish but she was already far behind. When Montano got up she was overcome with emotion. Her third Olympic dreams came crashing down. She finished the race in tears and heartbreak.
Martinez and Montano were favorites going into the race. Martinez was more upbeat after the race because she is also competing in the 1500m. However, Montano was devastated.
She told reporters, “My heart hurts so bad…I struggled so much in this last year in the sport and held onto every last bit of hope.” Montano has been through it all, as she is owed three medals from the World Championships and Olympics. Her dreams of competing in a fair race were so close.
When the race was under question, the officials declared the collision incidental and therefore no one was disqualified. Some hoped for a rerun of the finals, but this was not in the cards. Click here to view the race.
Many begin to wonder what the impact of collisions and results play in track and field. This 800m will be one to remember. But how often do collisions affect the results?
Here’s a look into some of the biggest collisions throughout track and field history:
In the 3,000m final at the 1984 Olympics, the favorite, Mary Decker was ready to go head to head with her rival Zola Budd. The race came down to Budd and Decker with three laps to go, when Decker clipped Budd in the heel. Budd lost her stride and Decker fell to the track. With the fall, Decker was out of the race with a hurt hamstring and Budd cruised to victory. Decker was very emotional and upset that the race came down to this and she only had herself to blame. One misstep took Decker from gold to nothing.
In 1987, at the first IAAF World Indoor Championships Greg Foster crashed into Mark McKoy during the 60m hurdle finals. Foster and McKoy were both favorites, but instead of standing on the podium, they were on the track covered in blood and bruises. Foster tripped over the third hurdle and landed in McKoy’s lane and on top of McKoy’s foot, which dragged him down. This collision led to Torie Campbell’s victory.
Campbell expected to come in third, but he was delighted to be crowned the champion. Campbell’s reaction was similar to Grace’s because they were both happy with the win, but they know that they might lose to their competitors in the next race if there is a different outcome.
The 1990 Commonwealth Games featured possibly one of the greatest races ever: the Men’s 5,000m. The race was off to a fast start and John Ngugi, the 1988 Gold medal winner of the 5,000m found himself in the middle of the pack after 800m, when he tripped and fell. He brought down a few other runners with him. Ngugi did not want to risk getting into trouble again so he bounced up quickly and pushed the pace to take the lead. After 1600m, another collision ensued. Yobes Ondieki, another favorite went down when he was in second place behind Ngugi. This fall created a domino effect when Mark Rowland tripped into the outer lane and then Andrew Lloyd hurdled over Ondieki. Ondieki finished the race, but he was unable to rebound in the same manner as Ngugi. Due to this second incident, Ngugi was untethered and continued to lead the race; however, Lloyd caught him in the final 15 meters for a huge upset.
Perhaps Ngugi would have had enough to outkick Lloyd if he didn’t fall and Ondieki’s entire race was thrown off by the collision. But there are no what-ifs in the midst of a final.
These are some of the most notable collisions throughout the history of track and field, but there continue to be collisions in big races. Montano joins a long list of incredible athletes who have come so close to glory. There are countless track and field athletes, who deserve medals and Olympic berths, but track and field is a brutal sport in which one day and one race mean everything. Fortunately, for most athletes, there is another day and another race.