Jeneba Tarmoh was supposed to race Allyson Felix Monday to break a tie and see who would run the race in the London Olympics. But Tarmoh pulled out as emotions ran high.
The moment, it seemed, was made for TV. Two women. One track. An Olympic spot on the line.
Cue the lonesome whistle and tumbleweed flitting across the screen.
Problem is, it's not going to happen anymore.
In a puzzling bit of pre-Olympic theater, Jeneba Tarmoh is giving up her last chance to run the 100-meter dash in the London Olympics, pulling out of a runoff against practice partner Allyson Felix that was scheduled for prime time Monday on NBC.
For the two women, the runoff could hardly have had higher stakes: The winner would win the right to run the race at the Olympics, the loser would be left out. The runoff became necessary when Tarmoh and Felix tied for third with identical 11.068-second times in the 100-meter final of the Olympic trials June 23. The US can field only three sprinters in the 100 meters at the London Games.
But in the sort of soap opera that USA Track and Field (USATF) just can't seem to avoid, Tarmoh's agent e-mailed a message to USATF Monday morning: “I Jeneba Tarmoh have decided to decline my 3rd place position in the 100m dash to Allyson Felix. 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 question is: Why did Tarmoh back out of the runoff – especially when it appears that she had more to lose from such a move than did Felix?
While Tarmoh has qualified to run in the 400-meter relay in London, the 100 was her last chance to qualify for an individual event. Meanwhile, Felix has already qualified for the 200 meters, in which she is a two-time Olympic silver medalist and a gold-medal favorite. For her, the runoff, while important, was also potentially another chance to sustain an injury that could put her out of her signature event.
In other words, Tarmoh needed the 100. Felix would have been an American star at the Games with or without it.
And that might be the problem.
Make no mistake, Tarmoh likes her training partner, but she feels that USATF is bending its rules to try to pump Felix's tires. At least, that's what her high school coach, who is in touch with Tarmoh, told The San Jose Mercury-News.
"This is a Nike and NBC Sports deal," the coach, Steve Nelson, said. "This is Jeneba against the world. She feels like it's everybody against her."