World indoor 800 meters champion Boris Berian suffered an upset defeat at the US Olympic trials here Monday as a dramatic collision in the women’s two-lap race left two of the front-runners in tears.
Berian, a rising star in the 800m who was working in a McDonald’s restaurant two years ago, was narrowly beaten in the final stretch at Hayward Field, finishing second behind Clayton Murphy.
Murphy came home in 1 minute 44.76 seconds, just ahead of Berian who was second in 1:44.92 with Charles Jock third in 1:45.48.
All three runners booked their tickets to Rio in the performance.
Despite the defeat Berian was delighted to have secured his Olympic qualification.
“All this came so fast, it’s just amazing right now,” Berian said.
Murphy’s victory was the biggest racing surprise in the fourth day of action but was overshadowed by controversy in the women’s 800m as a final-bend collision knocked Alysia Montano and Brenda Martinez out of contention.
Montano, an outspoken voice in the fight against drugs and who has missed out on several medals at major championships after finishing behind Russian runners later found to have been doping, appeared to clip Martinez from behind with around 150 meters to go.
Martinez was knocked off balance and out of contention as Kate Grace raced clear to win in 1:59.10 ahead of Ajee Wilson and Chrishuna Williams.
Montano, 30, meanwhile had collapsed sobbing to the track before crossing the line in tears, as she digested the end of her dream of competing in Rio four years after she was denied a bronze at the 2012 London Games.
Martinez said the incident had been triggered after she was knocked off balance from behind. “I don’t know, I got clipped from behind. I just tried catching my fall but by then they were already making another gear, another move and I just couldn’t regain my composure,” she told reporters, tears welling.
– Blame game –
Martinez’s coach pointed the finger of blame at Montano — but the former Olympian denied responsibility.
“I don’t know what happened to Brenda but she ended up tripping and I found myself jumping around her and then someone kicked me out from behind,” Montano said.
“I didn’t touch anyone. You can go back and watch the footage – she just jumps straight out.”
Asked about the suggestion from Martinez’s coach that she had been to blame for the incident, Montano replied: “He needs to go and watch the footage but if this is going to be a blame game I don’t really want to play that right now.”
Reflecting on her emotional finish, Montano said she had realized her Olympic dream was over as soon as she crashed to the floor.
“It doesn’t really settle in at that moment in time. You just say ‘Get up’ and they’re really far away. And your heart breaks,” she said, choking back tears.
Elsewhere Sunday in the men’s pole vault, rising star Sam Kendricks comfortably qualified with a winning leap of 5.91 meters, well clear of his nearest rival Cale Simmons who failed at 5.70.
Kendricks, a second lieutenant in the US Army reserve, was unable to set what would have been a world leading best with three failures at 6.00.
The 23-year-old from Mississippi has emerged as the nearest rival to France’s Renaud Lavillenie, the reigning Olympic champion, who edged Kendricks into silver at the World Indoor Championships in March.
In the day’s other final, Cyrus Hostetler won the javelin with a throw of 83.24m. Curtis Thompson was second with 82.88m and Riley Dolezal third.