A photo finish in a men's 100-meter semifinal heat at the world championships today not only revealed the winner of the race, but also really highlighted the fact that the winner has an abnormally large nose.
"I've always been conscious of my nose, but having it blown up in profile for the whole world to see was my worst nightmare," said Dwight Martin of Jamaica, who won the race over his countrymen John Gardener with a time of 10.03 seconds. The victory secured the last spot in tomorrow's 100 final.
But despite Martin's embarrassment, race officials said his huge snoz is what gave him the win.
"If he didn't have a freakishly long nose — and I'm talking Pinocchio-like — he wouldn't have won that heat and wouldn't have made the finals," said Larry O'Connor, an IAAF official who reviewed thephotofinish. "It was that beak that broke the finish line first and got him in ahead of Gardener."
Originally published August 12, 2009.
O'Connor admitted that he and other race officials had a good laugh over Martin's nose before declaring who won the race. Usually photo finish verdicts are announced within 60 seconds, but the Martin-Gardener call took nearly 15 minutes.
"The picture came out of the machine and we all just started busting up laughing," said O'Connor. "I mean, his nose is freaking enormous — it's cartoonishly large. Some of us had laughed at how big it was before the race, and then for him to win because of it was hilarious."
O'Connor passed the photo around to more than two dozen different associates — including faxing and e-mailing it to some friends — before announcing the race's winner.
"I wanted my friends to see it before the whole world had a laugh, too," said O'Connor. "They definitely got a kick over it."
Martin figured his huge nose would be exposed moments after the heat ended when the Olympic Stadium scoreboard flashed "PHOTO FINISH."
"I always lean forward with my head at the end of a tight race," said Martin. "It gives me a big advantage — why not take advantage of it? But right away I knew they were going to be staring at my nose and yukking it up like a bunch of asses."
Once Martin saw the race officials laughing and pointing at a print, he walked off the track and back to the locker room where he cried in shame. "I wasn't going to stand out there and get humiliated," said Martin. "I figured somebody would come in and tell me the verdict."
Gardener said that while he was disappointed to have lost the heat and missed out on the finals, he's happy he isn't Martin.
"If all that separates me from being an elite sprinter is having a huge nose, I'm okay with that," said Gardener. "A sprinting career lasts only a few years, but you've got your nose for life. I'd rather not be stared at in public and frighten children."