The Photo-Finish of One of the Biggest Olympic Rivalries | Olympics On The Record
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The Photo-Finish of One of the Biggest Olympic Rivalries | Olympics On The Record

August 16, 2019


It was one of the greatest
rivalries in women’s athletics. Gail Devers, 29, representing the United States, the reigning Olympic 100m
champion. And Merlene Ottey of Jamaica, now 36, double world champion, and competing
in her fifth Olympic Games. Six other outstanding athletes
joined them for the final of the Women’s 100m at the 1996
Olympic Games in Atlanta. It would take a top sprinter
to beat Gwen Torrence, world champion the previous
year. But the two form athletes in
Atlanta were Devers and Ottey. Devers was the star
all-round athlete, ranked number one in the
hurdles and coming back to her
explosive best in the 100m. Ottey was the
consistently-brilliant sprinter in both the 100m and 200m. Form suggested
this might be her night. This was arguably
the greatest prize in athletics and they wanted it.
They wanted it badly. Devers and Ottey had faced off
several times in major finals. The record read four wins for Ottey, three for Devers. They had run against each other four years previously, in
Barcelona. A blanket finish
saw Devers take the race, the plaudits, the small matter
of an Olympic gold medal… Oh, and the flowers.
Don’t forget the flowers! Ottey was just 0.06 of a second
behind and still finished fifth. And Ottey would be left
wondering how to make up that tiny fraction of a second. Four years later,
she had her chance. She qualified
comfortably in her heat. She was the fastest sprinter
going into the final, with a time of 10.91 seconds. Devers also made it safely
through. Fractionally slower, but was
she holding something back? And so it came down to this
race. A hot night in Georgia, for the
final of the Women’s 100m. Devers in lane three. Ottey right next to her,
in lane four. Torrence in lane six. A great start
from Gail Devers in lane three. She’s pulling away
from Gwen Torrence next to her. And here comes Merlene Ottey,
on the outside. Torrence and Ottey chasing
Devers. And it’s a dead heat!
I don’t know who took that one! Did Ottey do enough? She was coming strong at the
finish. No-one was claiming victory. They paced around anxiously,
looking for a sign – an indication of who had won. Ottey asked a line judge,
“Is it me?” But doesn’t get a conclusive
answer. Ottey and Devers embraced –
respectful, rather than warm. Neither knows
who’s won the gold medal. It was Devers, in lane three, who took control of the race
early on. Devers was in front, with
Torrence, nearest the camera, just holding on in lane six. By the halfway mark,
Ottey was still nowhere, but look, as she begins her
move. An exceptional burst of speed
from the Jamaican. Closing, closing, closing on
Devers. Had she done enough? Devers… Ottey… Torrence is probably third,
behind those two. Nobody knows on the track,
though, what the result is. It must have felt like
an eternity for the athletes. What was taking them so long? Both Devers and Ottey were
given the same time – 10.94 seconds. It took them nearly two minutes
to verify the winner. It was that close. And then the result
was shown in the stadium. Gail Devers –
Olympic gold medallist. Just that dip on the line
was enough to give her victory, ahead of her Jamaican rival. Ottey, at 36, had surely lost
her last chance of gold. This was the photo-finish
studied by the race officials – a difference which would later
be calculated in microseconds. The blink of an eye, the flap of a wing, the flash of a camera. That’s all it takes
to win Olympic gold.

Only registered users can comment.

  1. Ottey won.

    Devers is not supposed to be given this win by means of her HAIR.

    Ottey's body crossed first.

    This was Merlene Ottey's victory.

  2. Divers won, her head and feet were clearly across the line before her competitors" she literally stepped on the finish line ahead by a hair before the others, great race.

  3. What's upIonon thetrain going back homehospitalIItotoItoIItoIandItoIandtoIandItoIand7thtoandtoandandisIandandisIandIisisand2

  4. To me it looks like Ottey won, they're equel 20cm or so before the finish and Ottey was faster so how did they give the win to Divers, they counted her head? seems fishy.

  5. 2 amazing athletes. Why are people still arguing about the judges conclusion? It doesn't change the official result. Merlene often burnt up the tracks during the season, ran the fastest semifinal time and would then somehow choke in the final. By 1995-6 she had gotten over those final "nerves". Definitely one of the hottest female athletes of those times.

  6. If it was by today's rules Ottey would have won. It now measured by your chect/torso not the head. Ottey's problem was always her slow start.

  7. Ottey was closing so it appears she caught and passed Devers, but in looking at the photo the finish line must have arrive BEFORE Ottey passed her.

  8. This was when Americans look as if they were entering a fight and not a sport entertainment game.
    The Jamaicans bring smile and laughter to the sport.

  9. All I am going to say is, the USA cannot or will never be given any more victory like this. We all know why Ottey always comes second to Gail Devers. America judge officials back then called all the shots back then. Nowadays that won’t happen. Merlene was robbed, but only time will tell. Just like Marion Jones darkness came to light.

  10. look at gail,she must have eat something specia,as well as flo jo did,unfortunetly,and i liked flo,but marlen ottey she is a legend,her persistence is unmatched..true atlete ..she fought in so many battles..she deserves a big respectl

  11. Back in the days when the steroids was the drugs of choice for most athletes look how things have change ( win my practice)

  12. Sad, so sad and a bit mad for the results… both, Stuttgart 1993 and Atlanta 1996. I respect and admire Gail Devers but I just don't understand if her flag is havier over the mind of the judges.
    🇯🇲🇺🇲🇷🇺
    OTTEY ☆ DEVERS ☆ PRIVALOVA

  13. They should've both got gold, simulator to what happened in the 2008 Olympic when Sherone Simpson and another athlete was given the silver medalist after they both finished in a time of 10.98s.

  14. If people can’t see that Devers won, is because y’all haters of USA women as usual!!!!

  15. Gail Devers a world class athlete, that didn't let an illness block her dream of going for the gold.

  16. i dont get it, the Jamaican woman's foot clearly passes the line first, do they only go by their heads or something? cause if so i guess the american girl DID win, but i would personally say any body part should count, although if thoes were the actual rules the Jamaican should have won

  17. Still the only race in history where the TORSO didn't decide the winner (I WONDER UP TO THIS DAY ,WHY) justice prevailed I think by the Athletic"gods" (as since 2008 only one country has painted this event in their colours in these olympic games.

  18. Even though Ottey didn't win the gold medal in both 100m and 200m she is still one of the greatest sprinters of all time. Now Gail Devers was never a better sprinter than Merlene Ottey if you check the stats in the 100 metres Merlene Ottey is 7th all time with 10.74s while Gail Devers is 25th all time with 10.82s and in the 200 metres Merlene Ottey is 4th all time with 21.64s while Gail Devers is nowhere to be found on the all time list in the 200m. In Atlanta 1996 Olympics Gail Devers and Merlene Ottey both had a time 0f 10.94s and they said Gail won but to me Merlene Ottey won.PERIOD!!!!!!

  19. When I was a youngster I always thought it was tied but me being from NY & a yanky I love the US/Jamaica Rival on both the men’s and women’s side in track and field

  20. I was a great fan of Merlene Ottey's and nearly went berserk when she finally won a major gold medal in the 2003 World Athletics Championships pipping Torrence by 0.02 seconds in the 200m. Then, in 1999, she tested positive for nandrolone ( an anabolic steroid). She was subsequently cleared by the Jamaican track association. The IAAF cleared her too – but only on a technicality.

    She kept performing brilliantly up to the Sydney Olympics in 2000 (her sixth) where she won a silver and and a bronze at the age of 40, but, after that positive test, for me the magic had evaporated.

    By the way she took part in 7 Olympics – an absolute record – because she was present at Athens in 2004, representing Slovenia. She kept competing at high level until 2012.

  21. Lady Sprinters——–the most beautiful female athletes on earth ! ——–Perfect bodies. ——————-WolfSky9

  22. That additional step Ottey had to take before she crossed the finish line is what gave Devers the edge to win. Another thing, I noticed is that Devers had the figure four form before she crossed the finish line her stride was longer, all she needed was one stride and she didn't have to take an additional step like Ottey did. Devers's leg was more straight than Ottey's leg which was slightly bent before they crossed the finish line. It was so close and Ottey put on an impressive performance.

  23. The agony of this sport lies in hundredths of seconds! When this uncanny end presents itself, it serves as the catalyst that begs me to think of it as arguable, questionable and deniable. It ought to be judged by whose feet first cross the line and at what time. Lounging the torso can give a competitor a win. However, that is the winning rule that governs sprinting at such a distance. Only ONE gold meter is given. Can this rule be emended? The Jamaican runner was a second too late before she changed into her final accelerating gear. I wonder if they would have to raced again, if they had both lounged forward at the SAME time.

  24. I saw this race on satellite broadcast back to the Caribbean….we were rooting for Ottey….She was the fastest finisher along with Gwen Torrence….

    The photo finish decision was not correct….because both Ottey and Devers' torsos were exactly in line with each other from the still photo….OTTEY was Robbed…!

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