It's not as rare as you might expect. Ties happen with surprising frequency at the Olympics.
They aren't constant, but when events have such precise scoring and timing, it'd be fair to assume that a tie is almost impossible in an Olympic event. As it turns out, it's now happened twice at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang. On Monday, the two-man bobsled event saw a tie between the Canadian team led by pilot Justin Kripps and the German team led by four-time world champion Francesco Friedrich.
The Canadian team had a lead of only a hundredth of a second before the race's final bends, but both teams finished with a time of 3:16.86. (If you've been watching, this is a different two-man bobsled team than the German team that crashed at the finish line on Sunday, but somehow still managed to have the day's best time.) It's the first time there's been a shared gold medal in bobsled since the 1998 Olympics in Nagano.
“It's great [sharing gold], it's two more people as happy as we are,” Kripps said after the race. “They are amazing competitors, we have been friends and rivals for years. Franceso laid down such an amazing run and Thorsten [Margis] has been pushing really well.”
What Happens in an Olympic Tie?
It depends where the tied opponents finish.
In the case of Friedrich and Kripps' teams, a tie for first place results in a shared gold medal. Both teams receive gold, and the team that finishes behind them receives a bronze medal. A silver medal is not awarded. This also happened during the women's downhill final at Sochi just four years ago.
If the tie occurs between athletes or teams who finish second, both receive a silver medal. No bronze medal is awarded in this situation. The first-place finisher receives a gold medal as per usual. This last happened during the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver when Sergey Novikov of Belarus and Ole Einar Bjørndalen of Noway tied for second in men's individual biathlon, as highlighted by the Huffington Post.
In the event of a third-place tie, both athletes or teams are given bronze. In that instance, there's a gold medal, a silver medal, and two bronze medals. This situation played out on Saturday when Marit Bjørgen of Norway and Krista Pärmäkoski finished with a time of 25:32.4 in women's cross-country 10km freestyle. Both athletes were awarded bronze while Norway's Ragnhild Haga won gold and Sweden's Charlotte Kalla won silver.
Additionally, in PyeongChang, everyone gets a stuffed animal, which is nice.