Olympic track and field trials: Jeneba Tarmoh calls off decider for 100

2012-07-03T00:00:00Z Olympic track and field trials: Jeneba Tarmoh calls off decider for 100The Associated Press The Associated Press
July 03, 2012 12:00 am  • 

EUGENE, Ore. - It will be remembered as the most anticipated race never run. The runoff that turned into a walk away to conclude the U.S. track trials.

Jeneba Tarmoh conceded the final Olympic spot in the 100 meters rather than meet training partner Allyson Felix at the starting line to break a third-place tie. She notified USA Track and Field early in the day of her intention to withdraw from the Monday night race, later saying it was simply because her heart wasn't into the runoff.

In the original race on June 23, Tarmoh leaned across the finish line and looked up to see her name on the scoreboard in the third spot behind winner Carmelita Jeter and runner-up Tianna Madison. She took a celebratory lap around the track, waving an American flag. She received a medal and held a news conference.

And then watched the moment evaporate as the race was ruled a dead heat. She was reluctant to take the line for a runoff from the start, especially since she believed she earned the final spot in the 100 fair and square.

"Running in this (runoff) came down to how I felt internally. Would my heart be at peace running or would I not be at peace? If I was at peace, I would have run," Tarmoh, 22, said Monday. "My heart was not at peace with running."

In an email sent through her agent to USATF, Tarmoh officially conceded: "I understand that with this decision I am no longer running the 100m dash in the Olympic Games and will be an alternate for the event."

The unique race was scheduled to be shown in prime time on NBC in conjunction with the network's coverage of the swimming trials. It would've been a boon for track. Now, it's another blow for a sport that's taken its fair share of late.

"This could've been something exciting for the sport, something new, something different," said Olympic gold medalist Jackie Joyner-Kersee, whose husband, Bobby, coaches both sprinters. "It would bring people in that don't ordinarily watch. Reality at its best. This is reality. You've got everything - emotion, drama.

"But you don't have a cast."

And without a cast, track's moment in the spotlight fizzled.

"It is very frustrating for me, for someone who would like more people watching sport our sport on a regular basis," NBC sprints analyst Ato Boldon said. "That anytime you hear a track and field story, it's going to have a clumsy, awkward, or cringe-worthy ending."

USATF President Stephanie Hightower said the organization was "disappointed" that Tarmoh had a change of heart.

The controversy in the 100 overshadowed the entire trials because USATF had no protocol in place to deal with a dead heat. And after top officials scrambled to draft a tiebreaking procedure on the fly, the athletes didn't want to talk about it until after the conclusion of the 200 - nearly a week later.

The tiebreak also didn't exactly address this particular situation - an athlete commits to racing and decides not to at the last minute. The matter, however, was resolved once Tarmoh stepped aside.

"I feel very good about my decision. Most people don't understand why. But I'm not here to explain anything," Tarmoh said. "I'm saying I'm at peace."

Tarmoh also said this hasn't affected her relationship with Felix, who has taken the young sprinter under her wing.

"I've told Allyson numerous times, 'I have the utmost respect for you. I don't want you to think I'm mad at you or anything negative,'" Tarmoh said. "She's an inspiration to me, helping me on and off the track."

There was no guarantee Felix would've run in the race, either. She said Sunday that she would allow her health to make the final decision. If she warmed up and didn't feel right, that's it, Felix was going to pull out of the competition. She wasn't about to risk anything this close to London.

Felix will now race in both the 100 and 200 in London, and is favored in the 200 after winning silver medals in the last two Olympics.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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