By Mark Trevelyan
RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) – Shaunae Miller can afford to see the funny side of the storm that erupted on social media after she threw herself over the line to beat American Allyson Felix in the Olympic 400 meters final on Monday.
The athlete from the Bahamas launched herself into a headlong dive to deny Felix by 0.07 seconds, provoking a torrent of largely hostile reaction from U.S. viewers, many apparently unaware that the tactic was entirely legitimate.
Among the images online were photoshopped pictures appearing to show her taking part in the diving competition in the famously green Olympic pool.
“You know I saw a few of the memes and things that they had on social media and I just got a good laugh out of it,” Miller told Reuters in an interview on winning her first major title.
“The good thing about it is that those that are involved in the sport, they understand it. It’s not like the first time it’s happened, it’s happened so many times. We understand that sometimes you just can’t control it. It’s a practice point.
“I don’t let things get to me so I was just like, it’s whatever. I got my gold medal so I’m happy with it.”
Miller said the dive was not part of her race plan, but an instinctive reaction as her legs grew heavy in the last 40m and she lost her balance as she started dipping for the finish.
“I see a lot of people that are saying ‘Oh, she dove for the line,'” she said.
“It’s not like that, ’cause I wouldn’t have thrown my body down to catch all these bruises and cuts. But you know it happened, I lost all control of my legs, and I ended up falling.
“So I figured, why not fall across the line instead of falling backward to the left. And you know, it just worked out in my favor.”
(Editing by Nina Chestney)