10-second race takes nearly two hours to call

August 17, 1993|By Ken Stephens | Ken Stephens,Dallas Morning News

STUTTGART, Germany -- It took 10.81 seconds to run the women's 100-meter -- last night, then another hour and 45 minutes to decide who won.

Olympic champion Gail Devers of the United States eventually got the nod in the women's 100, giving the United States two gold medals yesterday in the World Track and Field Championships. Mike Conley leaped 58 feet, 7.25 inches to win the triple jump.

In the women's 100, Devers and Jamaica's Merlene Ottey crossed the finish line in an indistinguishable photo finish. Within minutes, Devers was declared the winner with a championship record time of 10.81 seconds and Ottey the runner-up in 10.82.

However, Jamaica immediately filed a protest, which wasn't rejected until after the stadium had emptied and Devers and Ottey had left as well.

"All I know is I ran the race and the race is over," Devers said earlier. "If anybody deserves to win the gold medal, it's Merlene, but it was a good race for both of us. There has to be a winner and a loser. I'm just going on what they told me."

Devers complimented Ottey because she has been one of the best female sprinters in the world since 1980. But Ottey never has been the best.

Known as the woman of bronze, Ottey had won eight bronze medals and one silver medal in the Olympics or World Championships before last night.

"I don't care about the Mercedes-Benz," Ottey said of the $30,000 car being given to each victor. "I just want to get the gold medal if they're concerned about giving out two Mercedes-Benzes. I'm pretty sure they got two gold medals."

Devers got off to a good start in the race, while Ottey had the second worst reaction time to the starter's gun in the field of eight. However, Ottey recovered and gained ground quickly over the last 30 meters.

In the photo finish, Devers leaned hard while Ottey was more upright at the finish. Devers' head was clearly in front of Ottey. But track rules say the winner is determined by whose torso crosses the finish line first, and it was impossible to judge whether Dever's shoulders were ahead of Ottey's chest in the brief time the photo was shown on the stadium televisions. Clearly in third in 10.89 seconds was another American, Gwen Torrence.

"I thought that in the last five meters I caught her," Ottey said of Devers, "and I thought I won the race."

Ottey and Jamaican officials were adamant that the race was so close that the outcome could not be worse than a tie for Ottey.

"When you look at the board, who here could tell who won the race?" Ottey asked. "It was hard for the announcer. If you can't decide, give us two gold medals."

Ottey in particular could not understand how she could be assigned a different time in a photo finish.

"Even if she got the gold medal, I don't see how there could be any difference in the time, looking at the board," Ottey said.

In the end, officials may agree with her, in part. After confirming that Devers was the winner, officials said they would wait until today to review the film one more time to determine Ottey's time.

For Devers, it was the second major championship in two years decided by a photo finish. In the Barcelona Olympics last year, the first five finishers were separated by only .06 seconds, with Devers winning in 10.82 seconds, just .01 ahead of Juliet Cuthbert and .02 ahead of Irina Privalova. In that race, Ottey was fifth, .06 seconds to the rear.

Like Devers, Conley, the triple-jump winner, also had won the Olympic championship a year ago.

"There were two things missing in my career: an outdoor world championship and a world record," he said. "I thought I could get both here, but I'm happy to walk away with one of them today. I can get the world record any time. This is just as big as the Olympic Games for me."

Conley's winning jump of 58-7 1/4 was a quarter of an inch short of his lifetime best and 4 1/4 inches short of Willie Banks' 8-year-old world record.

Conley had three legal jumps over 58 feet and a fourth that went that far but was declared a foul. On that jump, Conley's first, he also slightly injured his left foot.

In a surprising development yesterday, an ailing Jackie Joyner-Kersee called it her worst heptathlon, yet after the first day of competition she was still in the lead.

In four events, she had four sub-par performances. And she did not win a single event, although three of the four are among her best in the seven-event, two-day competition.

Nevertheless, her total of 4,011 points was eight points ahead of runner-up Svetlana Buruga of Belarus and 14 in front of defending champion Sabine Braun of Germany.

The final three events -- long jump, javelin throw and 800 meters -- were to be held today.

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