Typically, the runner who comes in first wins the race, but Gabriele Grunewald never anticipated fighting red tape after breaking the finishing tape at the U.S. Indoor Track & Field Championships last weekend.
After dominating the women's 3,000-meter race on Saturday, Grunewald went from winner to disqualified to reinstated as winner.
Grunewald won the 3,000 meter in 9:23.15—two seconds before runner-up Shannon Rowbury, followed by Jordan Hasay. But due to some clipping between Hasay and Grunewald during the race, Nike-affiliated Alberto Salazar (Hasay and Rowbury's coach) filed a complaint to have Grunewald disqualified. USATF, the sport's governing body, rejected his protest. Salazar appealed, and again he was rejected.
But hours later, in an unexpected overruling of its own ruling, USATF disqualified Grunewald.
The running community called foul, concluding that Salazar's—and Nike's—influence unfairly swayed the outcome.
"If you don't think lots of people in the sport are indirectly intimidated or influenced by the financial might of Nike, then you don't understand how things work," wrote LetsRun.com editors.
Because only the top two athletes who had already achieved the IAAF qualifying standard were named to the world championships, Hasay, finishing 4th, was named to the team. #FreeGabe began trending on Twitter. Event spectators penned the words in permanent markers on their shirts for the rest of the meet. After the women's 1500-meter race, several women racers joined hands and walked 100 meters in solidarity in silent protest.
Then, on Monday, USATF CEO Max Siegel met with representatives of Grunewald and Hasay, and Hasay released a statement that she would withdraw her protest—resolving the conflict and reinstating Grunewald.
"Since Saturday evening my emotions have ranged from despair to determination to go to Poland and represent my country as best I can," Hasay's statement reads. "After much thought and consideration, however, I have decided to withdraw my protest as I do not want to make a national team under these circumstances."
Grunewald will represent the United States at the World Indoor Championships next month in Sopot, Poland.
"Paul Doyle of DMG went above & beyond his duties as my agent to correct this situation. He is the guy you want in your foxhole!" Grunewald tweeted Monday.