Felix, Tarmoh raise dead heat debate

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Felix_Tarmoh1 REUTERS Allyson Felix (left) and Jeneba Tarmoh cross the finish line.

Eugene, Oregon – There are almost as many suggestions for how to settle the women's 100-meter mess involving Allyson Felix and Jeneba Tarmoh as there are competitors at the US Olympic Track and Field Trials.

Felix and Tarmoh finished in a dead heat for third place, and the last London Olympic berth on offer, in Saturday's women's 100m final, a situation for which USA Track and Field had no protocols in place to handle.

Both Felix and Tarmoh will go to London as members of the US 4x100 relay pool by finishing in the two spots behind winner Carmelita Jeter, the reigning world 100m champion, and runner-up Tianna Madison in the women's 100m final.

But only one of them will have the chance to join Jeter and Madison in the women's 100 and hope to become the first US woman to win Olympic gold in the event since Gail Devers in 1996.

USA Track and Field came up with a plan signed off on by the US Olympic Committee last Sunday, allowing one athlete to drop out, both to settle the issue with a coin flip or to have a run-off to decide the berth.

Whatever option is taken must come by Sunday's conclusion of the meet, which also sees Felix and Tarmoh trying to qualify for London in the women's 200 with opening heats Thursday, semi-finals Friday and a Saturday final.

Former 100m Olympic and world champion and world record-holder Maurice Greene wants to see a made-for-television showdown run-off to bring greater attention to athletics by American audiences.

“Tell (US Olympic telecaster) NBC to give them $2 million and have a run-off,” Greene said. “This will supersede every other race. This means something. It's for the last spot.

“You tell me NBC couldn't sell that to sponsors and put on a 30-minute show?”

Greene dismissed the notion of a coin flip, saying, “being an athlete, no, you don't want that.”

US Olympic women's coach Amy Deem wants to let the women focus on trying to reach London in the 200 and then settle it with Bob Kersee, who coaches both Felix and Tarmoh.

“All of us need to take a step back, let them now refocus on making the team in the 200 and then let the two women and Bobby focus on that,” she said. “Everything will kind of fall into place after the 200.”

Justin Gatlin, the 2004 Olympic 100m champion, had joked he wanted to see the women in Jell-O wrestling or mud wrestling to decide the matter, comments for which he apologised on Tuesday in a posting on his Twitter microblog site.

“Have reached out and apologised to both ladies and to my tweeps I'm sorry for this joke to be taken out off context. Good luck to both!” Gatlin posted, adding that he meant no harm. “They are great athletes and figures! Good luck.”

Some media critics have ripped USA Track and Field for not producing better solutions to decide the issue, but Greene said the dispute is “good for the sport. It's bringing attention.”

Felix has won 2004 and 2008 Olympic 200m silver and is focused on running the 200 at London, although she hoped to bid for a double in the 100 as well, calling the shorter race “icing on the cake.”

That notion has some thinking that if Felix qualifies in the 200 – she ranks third on the US 200 list this year while Tarmoh is seventh – she might surrender the 100 berth to Tarmoh, especially if Tarmoh does not make it in the 200.

But Greene warned the “icing on the cake” might have too sweet a taste for Felix to simply give away. “I'm not giving up anything,” Greene said. “Nothing in life is given to you.”

Greene sees no lingering bitterness between the women likely for US relay efforts, saying “once it's settled it's done”, and says both women are probably focusing on the 200 and putting the 100 dispute out of their minds for now.

“I'm pretty sure they are not thinking about a run-off,” Greene said. “You have to be 100 percent into the event you are going into.

“If you have any distraction at all that limits you. It takes away from your mental capacity and mental capacity is what makes you win or lose races.” – Sapa-AFP


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