A GOLDEN DOUBLE
In its Olympic advertising, Swiss watchmaker Omega says proudly: "We measure the 100th of a second that separates winning from taking part."
Even that wasn't enough to decide yesterday's downhill skiing event.
Switzerland's Dominique Gisin and Tina Maze of Slovenia became the first Alpine skiers to share an Olympic gold, after both clocked 1 minute and 41.57 seconds down the Rosa Khutor piste in southern Russia at the Sochi Games.
"You want to know who was the winner?" asked Peter Huerzeler, a board member with Omega Timing.
Huerzeler explained that whether Gisin or Maze had been fractionally quicker is destined to remain a mystery.
"Before a race starts, we have to set our systems in the position to measure in hundredths or thousandths (of a second)," said Huerzeler.
"After the race it's not possible for us to find out (more about) how the time was made."
Omega can time events to a millionth of a second, but it is the sports federations who decide on the level of precision they require.
Different sports take different approaches, prompting a debate about when a tie should be declared and glory shared.
In Moscow last August, British runner Christine Ohuruogu claimed the 400 metres women's world title by four thousandths of a second.
Swimming is happy to stay with 100ths and has had deadheats in the Olympics and major championships.
In downhill skiing, where racers go against the clock rather than each other, there is no recourse to visual images to decide the classic "photo finish".
Following a topsy-turvy career, Gisin didn't mind sharing the gold with Maze.
After all, the Swiss has been here before, tying with Swedish great Anja Paerson when she claimed her first World Cup victory in 2009.
Few rated the chances of the 28-year-old, a pilot in the Swiss Air Force.
Twelfth in the overall World Cup rankings, she had won only two downhills. Four years ago at the Vancouver Games, she crashed and suffered concussion.
"That's the story of my career, up, down, forwards, backwards," Gisin said. "I have had a lot of injuries in my life, I had nine knee surgeries. I was close to the podium a lot. I never medalled on a big event, so what comes around, goes around."
Gisin started eighth, then had to watch nervously while all the favourites came down without beating her time.
Maze, 30, started 21st, about half an hour later, and Gisin could not bear to watch her cross the line.
"I looked away and I looked up again and then I thought: 'Zero. That means we're good'."
Gisin, whose sister Michelle is also competing in Sochi, became the first Swiss downhill winner since Michela Figini in Sarajevo 30 years ago.
She made a teary phone call to her grandparents, with whom she skied a lot as a child.
"It was very emotional, they did so much for me. My whole family did. They always believed this would come, they always said you have to believe," she said. - Reuters.
AS AT PRESS TIME
MEDAL TALLY It's better to have a gold and share with someone else than to have silver or bronze. In each country, Dominique in Switzerland and Tina in Slovenia, they are the only Olympic winner.
- Norway's Swiss coach Stefan Abplanalp, who backs the system for gold medals to be shared WINTER OLYMPICS