Was Shaunae Miller's Dive Across The Finish Line Legal? Some Rio Olympics Fans Were Unhappy With This Win
Most Olympic runners sprint across the finish line to take home the gold, but during the women's 400-meter final event on Aug. 15, the Bahamas' Shaunae Miller beat out her competitors by diving — not running — over the finish line. She ultimately finished first, timing just 0.07 seconds ahead of American Olympian and crowd favorite Allyson Felix. The Bahamian runner's gamble paid off, but her unusual move has left many wondering: Was Miller's dive across the finish line legal?
To the surprise of many angry and bewildered social media users, as well as those in the audience, the dive was in fact legal. The rules of the sport state that it's only necessary for a runner's torso to cross the finish line first to secure a victory. Miller could have crawled the remaining length of the track and won, so long as her torso was the first one to cross the line.
The move is nevertheless an usual one, though. According to USA Today, coaches generally teach their athletes to follow the textbook approach, whereby they run past the line and dip their shoulders and torso upon their final sprint. U.S. runner Felix ended the race this way, making her finish the more recognizable of the two.
A presumably stunned Miller then laid on her back for a full seven minutes after winning gold, as social media critics began questioning the legitimacy of her victory. But as the rules state, her win was entirely valid. And for what it's worth, the former University of Georgia runner said that her dive was actually unintentional. She told USA Today: "I don’t know what happened. My mind just went blank. The only thing I was thinking [about] was the gold medal, and the next thing I know, I was on the ground."
The main complaint against Miller's move was that it robbed Felix of a medal. But as NBC's official Olympics Twitter account points out, the Bahamian wasn't the first to dive across the finish line for a medal, and it perhaps serves as some tit for tat for a race in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. It was during those summer games that U.S. runner David Neville dove past Bahamian Chris Brown to win a bronze in the 400-meter race.
So although the Olympian's last-ditch effort for the gold may have looked a little suspect, she can be confident in the fact that she won her medal fair and square.