Allyson Felix is having a great time in London. She won gold in "her baby," the 200m, and last night she was part of the relay team that took gold along with fellow star Carmelita Jeter. The only down moment for Felix came last Saturday, when she finished a disappointing fifth in the women's 100m. Carmelita Jeter won silver in that event. And Jeneba Tarmoh was out of sight, out of mind.
Tarmoh, you most likely do not recall, was jobbed out of an initial third place finish at the USATF 100m trials in June and a spot in the Olympics. After review, a dead heat was declared and since USATF—apparently run by Laurel and Hardy—never before considered such a possibility, there was a lot of confusion.
"I honestly can't tell you why a protocol wasn't in place," USATF president Stephanie Hightower said. "No one ever thought through it. The likelihood of it happening didn't cross anybody's minds."
A run-off was eventually settled on (hesitantly agreed to by Tarmoh) and third place was later awarded to Allyson Felix after Tarmoh backed out.
You are forgiven for having to take that little refresher course—Just Who The Hell Is Jeneba Tarmoh? (Summer session, USATF 101)—because, prior to the relay qualifier, NBC mentioned her (last) name once during its televised coverage of the Olympics. Right before Allyson Felix ran the 100m qualifier, The NBC broadcast, via transcription, noted:
You'll remember, she finished in a dead heat for third at the U.S. Trials in the 100 meters. [sic] Tarmo opted out of a runoff. Here is the official dead heat. Remember, the torsos are what count. You see their torsos are across the line at the same time. It was a dead [sic] here. But here is Allyson.
Allyson Felix has now run seven times in these London Olympics. One would think more than just a passing reference to the insanely controversial finish, directly responsible for Allyson Felix's participation in the semifinal and final for 100m is warranted. She was intimately involved with, and the main beneficiary of, one of the weirder stories going into the Olympics. There's no need to rain on Felix's parade, but this is a thing that happened, to which she was a party. Obviously the USATF is appreciative of the lack of coverage from its partner NBC, but what about Jeneba Tarmoh?
Those in the "what's the big deal, she's still going to the Olympics" camp were quick to note she was not screwed out of the Olympics since she would be in the relay pool. Earlier in the week Tarmoh sent out some cryptic tweets, the first of which was since deleted. In a story actually covered on NBC's Olmypics site (buried in the "News & Blog" section), the deleted tweet is quoted as "USATF boy. Never been this upset in my life. Time for a change." That deleted tweet was followed by:
That sounds an awful lot like someone who just got screwed a second time.
According to USA Track & Field spokesperson, Jill Geer, nothing has been officially decided.
"Our relay lineup for the first round will be announced the morning of the race," Geer said. "All six women in the relay pool will run at some point in London.
Tarmoh did run in the semifinal, running the second leg for a team that won its heat with a 41.64. Come time for the final, however, it was once again Allyson Felix running and not Jeneba Tarmoh. That team would go on to set the world record on its way to gold. Looking back, those tweets certainly sound as though Tarmoh knew on Tuesday that she would not be participating in the final. Maybe this has been the best thing for the United States, they did win gold and set a world record in the process, but it feels dirty. No one thinks Jeneba Tarmoh should be given a spot she didn't earn, but she did earn a spot and had it ripped away. Twice.
The sad epilogue is this: Jeneba Tarmoh will receive a gold medal for her role on the women's 4x100m relay team. But you probably hardly noticed her presence at the Olympics. You barely heard her name and you definitely did not see her on the podium biting a gold medal, or getting emotional during the National Anthem. She was out of sight, out of mind. Again. If there's a lousy way to win a gold medal at the Olympics, that is the lousiest.
Image via Getty
Has Jeneba Tarmoh's rotten luck gotten worse? [NBC]
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