Readers Roundtable: What Happened in the 800 Meters?

Brenda Martinez is clipped by Alysia Montano in the Women's Olympic Trials 800
Brenda Martinez (second from left) braces herself after being clipped in the heel by Alycia Montano (vertical in pink next to her).

What happened in the Women’s 800 Meters at the Olympic Trials last night?

Kate Grace, Ajee Wilson, and Chrishuna Williams, made the team! However, moments before they finished 1, 2, 3, the race took an incredible turn.

Alysia Montano went out hard. She appeared a little erratic, swinging wide as she navigated the first 400 in 57. Was it nerves? Then shortly into the second lap, she seemed to pay for her exuberance, but no one could imagine what would happen with 150 to go. Alysia, seemingly trying to claw her way back into the top-three after being swallowed by the pack, clipped Brenda Martinez who was surging for the lead. Did the trip cost Brenda a spot on the Olympic team? The win?

What say you?

What happened? Was Brenda Martinez robbed? What about Alysia Montano? Would she have made the team if she didn’t fall? Some say the race wasn’t fair and should be rerun. Do you agree?

If you missed it, you can view the race here.

Salty Running boss and mother of 3 little ones with PRs of 3:10:15 (26.2), 1:25:59 (13.1) and 18:15 (5k). I love to write about running culture, mental training, and fitting in a serious running habit with the rest of a busy life.

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  1. When I first saw the race, it looked like Martinez stepped on someone’s heel and caused the trip herself, but then when they showed the replay from the other angle it looked more like she (Martinez) got clipped from behind. I re-watched a few times and the best I could see was that maybe it was Montano who clipped her? It’s really unfortunate, but this happens in championships races, especially mid-distance ones (like multiple 1500s I’ve watched over the years, several where Uceny fell). To me, it didn’t look like any intentional wrong-doing. I do feel bad for both Martinez and Montano, but also really excited for Grace.

  2. It was heartbreaking to watch, but at that level and especially in the last 200 meters of the 800, everyone is going to be moving for position, trying to get close, make a move, and what happened is in the nature of the sport. It’s unfortunate, but there doesn’t seem to be anyone to blame.

  3. I’ve watched it many times now, and it’s still….just shocking. As Brenda stated in her post-race interview, that is track and field and it happens. Add in being a high stakes mid-distance race with a solid field. It’s hard to say what happened and I don’t think we will ever really know, but I also don’t think it matters. Granted, I say that being on the outside and this doesn’t affect me. But does knowing how or why something happened change the fact that it did? Because even if someone got DQ’d, I still highly doubt they would have re-run the race. But, what do I know.

    I do think it’s sad, I think that Brenda, and Alysia were probably 2 of our best bets for the Olympics, but that doesn’t mean the girls who are now going aren’t strong runners. I do think the team would have been different (Brenda, Ajee and then either Alysia or Ludlow), I think Kate Grace was blocked in too deep and might not have made it but (not because of speed, girl has shown she has awesome finishing speed) but positioning in the pack. BUTTTTT that is all speculation and honestly I hope that this fades into the mix of the trials. It’s a big deal and something no one expected but it isn’t fair to the 3 women who took advantage of what happened, made their moves and then got on the team. They did what they went there to do and it’s not like they yogged in for the Olympic spots, they were still sub-2:00. I have high hopes that Brenda will be on Team USA for the 1500 and assume this will give her some amazing fuel for it.

  4. Unfortunately, it is a sport and these things happen. I did see something online that said after video review, it appeared that Martinez and Rogers clipped each other, causing Martinez to stumble as Montano was moving and then she tripped on Martinez – or something like that. I think the important thing is that any contact was unintentional and it did NOT involve any of the top 3. The women’s 800m field at the trials was insanely deep – no matter WHAT happened during the race, top runners were going to be left off the team. It is unfortunate that it wasn’t an incident-free race, but the top 3 (actually top 4) all ran under 2:00 so it’s not like the people going are slow.

  5. It looked like an accident to me. Alysia seemed really keyed up and off, as I wrote in the post. I don’t know if that contributed. It looked to me and I think Brenda stated in her interview that Alysia clipped her heel, but does it really matter whose “fault” it was? It didn’t appear intentional. Anyway, as Alex said above, we have a fast team of 3 800 meter runners going to Rio. In any race, it’s about doing the best given the circumstances. It sucks for Brenda who definitely appeared like she was in the hunt for the win/make the team, but that’s part of the sport. Shit happens. But I agree: go Brenda in the 1500!

  6. I couldn’t quite tell who clipped who, but regardless, it’s a crappy situation all around. My heart goes out to all the women who did not make the team, as I would probably be in absolute shambles if I was in their shoes. Those who made the team reacted best to a race situation, and I think it shows they are prepared for anything to happen in Rio. Those women still ran sub 2:00 when there was a fall and an absolute disaster going on around them.

  7. Sad situation over all, but to some extent… that’s what can happen in a fast track race, right? They’re all so close and moving so fast it seems crazy falls don’t happen more often. When Shaddy Biwott was telling me about racing on the track, he made it sound like elbows/heel clips/jostling was part of it– intentional and not.

  8. Oh, that was so hard to watch! Both from Ludlow finishing 4th yet again, to Montano and Martinez getting tripped up. But that’s what makes the 800 such an exciting race. Almost like short track speed skating- you never know what’s going to happen. I’ll now be rooting extra hard for Brenda to make it in the 1500!

  9. It was all an accident, and a direct result of having such a deep field. It’s a shame that the whole field didn’t get to the finish line together, but it is also a shame that the accomplishments of the women who stayed upright, kept their wits about them, and made the team are being overshadowed by the collision.

  10. It was clearly an accident, but I agree that Montano looked a little erratic from the start. It also looks like Montano was largely at fault. It completely sucks, but it happens and the race would NOT have been rerun if it had happened at the Olympics, so why do it now? I feel bad for all parties, but I’m excited to see what Grace can do!

    1. That is a really good point Maria- if it were the Olympics it wouldn’t have been re-run. I know a some countries scoff at how we (USA) use the trials format to dictate team instead of a committee choosing- but I think this right here is a good point of why the trials can be a good model. YES it stinks we aren’t sending the favorites, or who we may have originally thought- but we are sending 3 people who made the best of a bad situation and still all went sub-2 even after being jostled around. Sure, a committee could choose who they THINK is the best (based on past results etc.) but you never know what is going to happen until that day. You can’t predict everything.

    2. Completely agree it shouldn’t be rerun. I can’t really imagine ever re-running an event unless someone flat-out tanya hardinged someone else or something. Plus, as others have said, much of the issue was that the field was stacked, which meant no matter what 3 great runners are going to Rio. Shit happens, man.