By Christian Petersen, Getty Images
Jeneba Tarmoh, left, and Allyson Felix are scheduled to run Monday night to decide the final Olympic spot in the women's 100-meter dash.
By David Leon Moore, USA TODAY
USA Track and Field officials needed more than a week to come up with a resolution to the dead heat for the third and last Olympic berth in the women's 100-meter race that was held June 23.
They may need a while longer to assess what went wrong and the opportunity for their sport that was lost when their proposed solution - a much-anticipated two-woman race between star sprinter Allyson Felix and her young training partner Jeneba Tarmoh, to be televised live Monday night in prime time on NBC- fell apart.
USATF had seemed to luck into the spotlight, after some chaotic scrambling on how to break the tie - and after heading into the U.S. Olympic track and field trials with no agreed-upon criteria for breaking a dead heat for an Olympic berth, even though the situation had occurred twice previously at the trials, in 1952 and 1980.
But the luck ran out when Tarmoh pulled out of the race, the announcement coming Monday morning in an email from Tarmoh's agent Kimberly Holland that read: "She will not run today."
USATF confirmed the withdrawal nearly two hours later, and released a statement by Tarmoh. The statement did not give any explanation but Tarmoh said she understood that declining to race Monday meant that she conceded her spot in the 100 and would serve as an alternate in London. "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 4x100m relay," the statement said.
Tarmoh, 22, was not immediately available for comment.
With Tarmoh's withdrawal, the U.S. women's 100-meter team will be Carmelita Jeter, who was first in the trials race, second-place Tianna Madison and Felix.
"We are disappointed that Jeneba has changed her mind regarding her position on the Olympic Team," said USATF president Stephanie Hightower in a statement. "We all worked hard to reach a consensus on the tiebreaker, but we know that Allyson, Carmelita and Tianna will represent Team USA well."
Just like that, all the excitement that had been building for a few days about the potential runoff - buzz that the sport almost never gets outside of the two-week Olympic window every four years - went, well, pfft.
"It would have been cool," said NBC spokesman Adam Freifeld. "We had the Olympic show all lined up - the 50-meter swim by Dara Torres, then cut to the track race in Eugene, then back to the swimming."
Felix said Monday in a statement that she was also disappointed not to race.
"The situation has been difficult for everyone involved," her statement said. "I wanted to earn my spot on this team and not have it conceded to me so I share in everyone's disappointment that this runoff will not happen. All I can do now is turn my focus to London."
Tarmoh had agreed to the runoff in a meeting Sunday afternoon with Felix, their agents, their mutual coach Bobby Kersee and USATF officials.
The schedule for the runoff was then announced at a news conference at Oregon's Hayward Field, amid the final day of the trials.
But later Sunday, she told the Associated Press : "In my heart of hearts, I just feel like I earned the third spot. I almost feel like I was kind of robbed . . . The decision (Sunday to agree to the runoff) was really hard for me to make. I was pushed into a corner. They said if you don't make a decision, you give your spot up. I work too hard to just give my spot up."
Felix, 26, in a Sunday interview with USA TODAY Sports, said the runoff was "the best option, the most fair . . . Surrendering the spot wasn't really an option for me. We both worked so hard for it. It's really not something you want to give up.
"Running the 100 is important to me, because it makes my 200 better. Just getting those competitive 100s in before the 200 is a help to me."
Felix is a three-time world champ and two-time Olympic silver medalist in the 200 meters, and she blazed to a personal-best time of 21.69 seconds. She will go to London as the favorite for the gold in that event.
Tarmoh has not qualified for an individual event, but she is already a member of the Olympic sprint relay pool.
Felix said Sunday that she and Tarmoh had stayed friendly throughout the process.
"Everything's been good," she said. "I didn't want anything to change our relationship, because we've been good together. This definitely was emotional, because we're friends and I want to see her do well."
She also said she had been unaware of what a hot topic the dead head had become.
"It's funny," she said. "I haven't paid a lot of attention to the media. I tried to stay away from all that until after the 200. I had no idea how big a deal it's become. It's pretty amazing."