Drama aplenty as favourites falter

EUGENE (Oregon) • On a day of stumbles and falls, world indoor champion Boris Berian was upset in the men's 800 metres, while Alysia Montano and Brenda Martinez had their Rio hopes dashed when they became entangled in the women's race at the US Olympic trials on Monday.

Collegiate champion Clayton Murphy surged past Berian to punch his Rio ticket in 1min 44.76sec, 16 hundredths of a second faster than Berian, who still made the team for Brazil.

Murphy said he was not sure he could catch Berian after the indoor champion had sprinted to the lead after a hectic 350 metres.

"But when I came off the top of the curve in second I had confidence that I could be in top three," said the 21-year-old.

Berian, who two years ago was flipping hamburgers for a living, was philosophical about a defeat which still saw him clinch his place on the Olympic team. "It's all worth it and I'm just so proud right now," the 23-year-old said.

The biggest drama came in the the women's race over two laps, with little-known Kate Grace winning in 1:59.10 after Montano and Martinez came together before tumbling to the track on the final bend.

Without naming names, Martinez insisted she was clipped by a runner and Montano denied she was the guilty party.

"She ended up tripping and I found myself jumping around her and someone kicked me out from behind. What can I do in that situation? I didn't touch anyone," the tearful Montano, 30, said after what could be her last shot at another Olympics slipped away.

Martinez said she had been unable to regain her composure after the incident. "I just tried catching my fall but by then they were already making another gear, another move," said the 2013 world bronze medallist, who finished seventh in 2:06.63.

A distraught Montano lay on the track before getting up, jogging a bit, then falling to her knees before eventually reaching the line in 3:06.77.

Officials ruled the contact incidental and said there would be no disqualification.

World indoor silver medallist Ajee Wilson was second (1:59.51) with Chrishuna Williams, third.

The US pole vault team for Rio will comprise first-time Olympians. World indoor silver medallist Sam Kendricks led the way with 5.91m for the win, while Cale Simmons (5.65m) and Logan Cunningham (5.60m) took the next two spots.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 06, 2016, with the headline 'Drama aplenty as favourites falter'. Print Edition | Subscribe