A few hours after one of the most thrilling races of her life, Gabriele Anderson got some stunning news. The runner from Minneapolis would not be allowed to compete in the finals of the women's 1,500 meters at the U.S. Olympic track and field trials, following another runner's claim that Anderson impeded her in Friday's semifinals.
Meet officials disqualified Anderson, who had finished second in her heat to advance to the finals. Saturday morning, Anderson and her coach, Dennis Barker, appealed that decision. They received word a few hours later that Anderson had been reinstated to Sunday's finals in Eugene, Ore., reviving her chance to make the team that will compete in the London Olympics.
USA Track and Field issued a statement at 12:30 p.m. Oregon time Saturday saying that Anderson, 26, was back in. After her disqualification, Alice Schmidt took Anderson's place in the final. USATF officials decided to allow both Schmidt and Anderson to run.
"I'm extremely relieved,'' said Anderson, a two-time cancer survivor who is competing in the trials for the first time. "It was very odd. I've never been in a situation like this. I have been in races where there was contact like this; it can happen in the 1,500, when it gets a little panicked at the end.
"It was scary waiting for the decision. But I was able to calm down and get a good night's sleep, and my legs feel ready to run fast [Sunday].''
The protest was lodged after the race by Amy Mortimer, who did not qualify for the final. Late in the race, Anderson was running in Lane 1, with Mortimer on her outside. Mortimer began leaning on her, Anderson said, and Anderson put her arm up to hold her position. But Mortimer continued to push, causing Anderson to bump another runner.
Barker -- the coach of Anderson's training group, Team USA Minnesota -- was informed at the end of Friday night's session that Anderson would be disqualified. He spent the evening drafting an appeal.
Barker noted that no runner tripped, fell or was stepped on, and that no official on the track raised a flag signifying a foul. "I saw it happen, and I didn't feel like it was a foul,'' Barker said. "There was a lot of jostling, but it's not illegal to jostle. [Anderson] wasn't doing anything on purpose, and she didn't impede anyone. I didn't understand it.''
Anderson, a Perham, Minn., native and former Gopher, finished second in her semifinal heat in a time of 4 minutes, 10.08 seconds. The top five from each of two semifinals, plus the two fastest runners who finished lower, move on to the finals. Schmidt moved into fifth place after Anderson's disqualification.