Shaunae Miller’s 400m win was perfectly legal…and perfectly perfect

Bahamian sprinter Shaunae Miller was clearly running out of gas as she neared the finish of Monday night’s Olympic 400m race. Miller and Allyson Felix of the United States seemed to be running step-for-step, but it appeared Felix may have a little left in her tank. Olympic immortality and second place hung in the balance, so Miller did this:

She dove for the finish…and won! Social media lit up as the public wondered if Miller’s dive was legal. Can a runner leave her feet to win a race. The short answer is yes, but let’s look at the rules. The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) is the governing body for track and field.

Rule 164 (The Finish):

  1. The finish of a race shall be denoted by a white line 50mm wide.
  2. The athletes shall be placed in order in which any part of their bodies (i.e. torso, as distinguished from the head, neck, arms, legs, hands or feet) reaches the vertical plane of the nearer edge of the finish line as defined above.

The rest of the rules regarding the finish of a race center on what to do in case of a photo finish or if the electronic timing system fails. Miller’s dive actually makes more sense when looking at the rules as opposed to the head nod most runners do when crossing the line.

When lunging with the head, the athlete’s torso is still behind her. It would be better to run upright with the chest high or just throw your whole body across the finish line. Miller chose to do the latter. Hey, whatever works!

On a more human level, did we really expect less from an Olympic athlete? We watch their stories of sacrifice, dedication and hardship to get to these moments. Seriously, if an Olympic gold medal were within your reach, wouldn’t you dive for it too?


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