Women's Olympic Triathlon 2012: Photo Finish Results Analysis

Dead Heat: Photo Finish. Who wins when two athletes finish at the same time? It doesn't get more dramatic than the 2012 Olympic Women's Triathlon finish in London with a gold medal at stake.

After a furious sprint to the end, Nicola Spirig of Switzerland and Lisa Norden of Sweden both finished in the same official time: 1:59:48. The final result was determined by race officials after reviewing the photo finish: Spirig won gold, Norden took Silver.

But did officials make the right call? We gathered images that capture the finish as seen from all angles; take a look and judge for yourself. (On 8/10/12, the Swedish Olympic Committee had appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, asking them to take a second look, as well)

As you view the photos (via Reuters, AP), pay attention to the difference between the finish banner location and the actual finish line. Also, note the official photo finish, with the banner wrapped around Spirig and Norden, which, based on the photo series here, implies the image was captured well after crossing the white line.

Norden striding to catch Spirig, steps from the finish. Image by Aaron Hersh, Triathlete.com

Norden lunges for the banner; Spirig appears to be leaning back

Both appear to touch the banner, waist level, at same time

Norden appears to be out-leaning Spirig, at the banner

Nearly the same moment as previous photo, from right side

View 3 of approximately the same moment, from head-on facing camera
View 4 of the same moment; both athletes' torsos crossing official finish line. Note 2 important elements: 1. both athletes' feet are planted; 2. banner ends are not dragging significantly behind either finisher.

This is the official photo finish image, used to declare the winner. Note, compared to previous 4 photos, that neither athletes' front foot is firmly planted on the ground, and the finish banner is flowing well behind them.  If all details in this image, relative to position, are accurate, it would appear that this photo was taken well after both athletes fully crossed the official finish line, or approximately at the point shown in the photo below.
Image by Aaron Hersh, Triathlete.com

Both Spirig and the Swede hit the finish banner together at the Olympics triathlon this morning. Both had a time of 1:59:48.00.

In a world where Olympic swimming medals are determined by 0.01 second, triathlon (and running) events have an all too common (though unintentional) problem: two 'finish' lines. Which is 'official'? Who wins?

Finish line #1: The finish banner, which was the athletes' target, wasn't held over the actual finish line; see #2. (Undoubtedly, holding in the wrong position wasn't the banner holders' intent)

Finish line #2: The official finish line was marked on the running surface. about a foot in front of the banner. The official photo finish seems based on this line.

What if one or both athletes thought the race was over when they hit the banner? What if one or both eased up, thinking it was over?

A letup or the slightest break in form between the finish banner and the official line could have resulted in a change in gold/silver results.

For more. visit london2012.org.