American distance runner Molly Huddle thought she had a bronze medal wrapped up at the World Athletics Championships in Beijing on Monday. Flying down the last straightaway of the 10,000-meter race, a then third-place Huddle watched Kenya's Vivian Cheruiyot and Ethiopia’s Gelete Burka finish first and second, respectively, before lifting her arms in a classic v-for-victory pose.
The photo finish revealed it all: One runner celebrated prematurely while the other ran hard the whole way. Who won? The runner who actually finished the race with gusto.
That runner, Huddle's American teammate, Emily Infeld, took advantage of Huddle's nonchalant finish and just barely slipped past her to claim the bronze medal. Infield was out-of-her-mind happy after winning a bronze that, for the previous 9,999 meters of the race, was not hers to win.
“I just tried to run all the way through the line,” Infeld told Universal Sports. While she was proud of her competitive finish, Infeld couldn't help but show a little empathy for her American teammate.
“I don’t think [Huddle] knew I was there. I hate to take a medal away from a teammate and fellow American … I don’t mean to snipe someone or do that. I feel like that’s kind of like a [expletive] way to get it, so I feel kind of bad now.”
Huddle, on the other hand, was understandably distraught. “Emily slipped on the inside as I eased up a little bit," she told Universal Sports. "[Infield] had this once-in-a-lifetime moment. I feel like it kind of slipped through my fingers."
As the reigning 10,000-meter American champion at the U.S. Outdoor Track & Field Championships, Huddle will surely seek redemption at the 2016 Olympics in Brazil.
"The Olympics are typically a hard race, not a tactical one, so this probably won’t ever come around again," Huddle said.
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