By Michael Kinney
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — If there was an actual book on sports rules never to break, Jeneba Tarmoh would have shredded at least 10 of them with her actions this week. The main one being she chose not to compete.
You can do a lot of things in the world of sports and no one would blink an eye. But to just give up or concede is not one of them. And that is what the former Texas A&M sprinter has done.
Tarmoh was put in this position when she and Allyson Felix battled for third place in the finals 100-meter at the Track and Field Olympic Trials in Eugene, Ore. Tarmoh was initially said to have edged out Felix and earned a spot in the London Olympics.
However, after Tarmoh took a victory lap, track officials informed her that she and Felix had actually had a photo finish and it was too close to determine who was ahead at the tape.
Tarmoh and Felix were given two options on how to settle the problem. One was a winner take all run-off Monday just between the two sprinters. Option two was a winner take all coin flip.
The two training partners, who also both represent NIKE, both chose the run-off. It would be nationally televised and the winner would represent the United States at the Olympics in the 100 meters. Felix was already going as the top-200 meter runner in the country.
However, the spotlight was short lived when Tarmoh decided Monday she didn’t want to be part of the run-off. In an e-mail to USA Track and Field, she conceded her dream to Felix.
“I Jeneba Tarmoh have decided to decline my 3rd place position in the 100m dash to Allyson Felix,” Tarmoh said in her e-mail. “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. As an alternate I understand that I will be asked to run if another 100m runner decides not to for personal reasons, and/or on the 4x100 meters relay.”
In other words, she was afraid to compete. It’s almost impossible to see it in any other light. Felix will now race in both the 100 and 200 in London.
Whether Tarmoh felt she had actually won the event or not, by Sunday it was irrelevant. A new challenge had presented itself and she had a choice to either take it on or run away. Sadly, she chose wrong.
“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 told The Associated Press on Monday night. “My heart was not at peace with running.”
NBC had planned to broadcast the event world wide during its coverage of the Olympic swimming trials.
Tarmoh had a chance to make a name for herself. She could have been the face of the Olympic track team in London if she had won. But she threw it away.
“I feel very good about my decision,” Tarmoh said. “Most people don’t understand why. But I’m not here to explain anything,” Tarmoh said. “I’m saying I’m at peace.”
While Tarmoh may say she is at peace, the ones who should be upset are USA Track and Field. The controversy had unintentionally shined a light on women’s track that has been missing since the days of Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Florence Griffin Joyner.
“We could have had an epic moment here for the sport,” said Stephanie Hightower, the president of USA Track and Field. “But it didn’t happen.”
Michael Kinney 366-3537 firstname.lastname@example.org