100-meter run-off gives USA another athletic black eye

BY VIN CAPPIELLO, Couchsideshow.com contributor

American sprinter Allyson Felix will compete in the 2012 Summer Olympics after tying for third with Jeneba Tarmoh in a dead heat during a qualifying race. Photo by: Doha Stadium Plus Qatar / Flickr

Americans always have been the top sprinters in the world. Hence, a spot on the Olympic team is as a coveted as the last Twinkie on a camping trip.

So don’t act surprised that Jeneba Tarmoh’s walked away from a tie-breaker run-off. Instead, blame USA Track and Field and the US Olympic Committee for its ineptitude in not handling the 100-meter third-place tie, which ultimately resulted in Tarmoh bowing out to veteran Allyson Felix after the two finished in a dead heat for the final spot in the 100 at the recently competed Olympic trials.

Tarmoh and Felix had been given about a week to determine the solution, finally deciding on Sunday they would get together Monday night for a run-off – a woman vs. woman 100-meter dash to ascertain which talented sprinter would earn that third spot.

This never should have gotten to this point, and it shouldn’t surprise anyone that Tarmoh thumbed her nose at everyone, refusing to run and conceding the spot to Felix, who absolutely smoked the field in the 200-meter dash final, which included Tarmoh, who placed fifth.

Of course, Tarmoh will go to the London Games as an alternate for the 100 and likely will run a leg on the 4×100-meter dash final, which right now includes Felix. Oh, and by the way, these two gals train together daily.

So what prompted Tarmoh to suddenly step aside between when the decision was made Sunday afternoon and when she announced her change of heart on Monday afternoon? Did a spot on the US Olympic Track and Field Team suddenly become not so valuable?

If she is disgusted with the powers that be at not either having a rule in place to begin with or at the options she and Felix were given, then her action might seem understandable.

But to quote ESPN analyst Lee Corso, not so fast. Not by a longshot.

Most of this one is on USA Track and Field and USOC, who muddied the competitive waters just as American sprinters are returning to the forefront of an event they have dominated along with the pesky Jamaicans.

So then, what should the meet officials have done? Easy, call the International Olympic Committee and find out if each country that contested an Olympic Trials meet had three sprinters meet the qualifying standard in the 100-meter dash. Chances are, of the 139 nationals set to compete, a few spots remain. During the same phone call, ask someone if an injury caused a qualifier to drop the event, and if Tarmoh’s qualifying time is faster than that nation’s fourth-place finisher, give her the spot.

And if all else fails, do what PTI’s Mike Wilbon suggested: Take the case to court.

This was a unique situation that required an amicable solution and it’s a damn shame it came to this. But Tarmoh shouldn’t have so easily dismissed the run-off.

Shame on USA Track and Field and the US Olympic Committee for making an already difficult situation that much more unpalatable. And a slap on the wrist to Jeneba Tarmoh for abandoning another shot at being on the most powerful Olympic track and field team in the world.

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