Sunday, July 1, 2012

Felix runs sizzling 200m, but 100m still undecided

EUGENE, Ore. – On Saturday night, the U.S. Olympic track team might not have quite moved beyond its ongoing dead-heat drama, but it certainly took some major steps toward looking like a juggernaut at the London Games.
Three-time world champion and two-time Olympic silver medalist Allyson Felix, in the eye of the storm of the 100-meter dead-heat tumult, ran her greatest race ever, sizzling through the curve and finishing the 200 in 21.69 seconds.

That was a personal best, the sixth-fastest mark of all time and the fastest women's 200 since Marion Jones ran 21.62 in 1998. The world record is Florence Griffith-Joyner's 21.34.
"I don't think it's sunk in yet," she said about the historic nature of the mark. "For so long, I've looked at those times. I've kind of been inching along.

"But the job is not done. It's all about London."

It's also about somehow, finally resolving the last Olympic berth in the 100. Felix and her 22-year-old Los Angeles training partner, Jeneba Tarmoh, tied for third a week ago, behind world 100 champion Carmelita Jeter and Tianna Madison.

There still is no resolution, as Felix, Tarmoh, their coach, Bobby Kersee, and USA Track and Field chief of sport performance Benita Fitzgerald-Mosley were scheduled to meet Saturday night to decide how to break the tie. An announcement could come late Saturday or Sunday morning.

Either one can drop out and surrender her spot to the other. Either can demand a runoff. If neither has a preference, it would be decided by a coin flip.

Felix, at the news conference after the 200, did not reveal a preference. But she didn't sound as if she was ready to bow out and surrender the 100 spot to Tarmoh, who finished fifth in the 200. (Tarmoh will be an Olympian either way, having already qualified for the sprint relay pool.)

"You work hard for it," she said. "She worked hard. I worked hard. We're both very deserving."

USATF spokesperson Jill Geer had said earlier that a runoff would have to be held before the end of the meet, which is Sunday night. But Kersee has been lobbying for a later date, allowing the women to recover from the rounds of the 200.

"We're all a little physically and emotionally drained at this moment," Felix said.

Felix said Kersee had done a good job of shielding her in recent days and keeping her focus on a big effort in the 200. When the moment came, she shined.

"I guess it was just about fighting to make the team," Felix said of her rush of speed. "You train so hard … the grueling days … I wanted to leave it all out on the track."

Felix will be joined on the U.S. 200 team by Jeter and Sanya Richards-Ross, the 2008 Olympic bronze medalist in the 400.

"We have a strong team here," Jeter said. "We're all on the same team now. I think we're going to be fine."

Tarmoh graciously stopped to talk to reporters after the 200 and said she and Felix had not made a decision about the 100.

"We really haven't talked about it," Tarmoh said. "I'm kind of a rookie. I asked Allyson about it and she said, 'Don't worry about it. We'll deal with it later.'

"It's really mine and Allyson's decision, no one else's."

Of course, Kersee is expected to have a major say. How much influence their mutual sponsor, Nike, might wield is not known.

In any event, the women's sprinters, who were dominated by the Jamaican women at the 2008 Olympics, are looking like formidable challengers.

The men's 110-meter hurdles team also looks like a powerhouse, though it will be missing 2008 Olympic bronze medalist David Oliver.

Oliver finished fifth in a smoking-hot final, won by Aries Merritt with a time of 12.93, the best in the world this year. He became the 14th man in history to go under 13 seconds in the event.

In the semifinals, world champion Jason Richardson became the 13th man under 13 seconds, running 12.98. He matched that time in the final, finishing second. The third Olympic spot went to Jeffrey Porter, with a time of 13.08.

"I had two goals coming in here," Richardson said. "To go under 13 seconds, and to make the Olympic team."

He achieved both, and now he can decide where he wants his new tattoo, and what he wants it to look like. He had promised to celebrate with a tattoo upon getting under the 13-second mark.

Oliver handled defeat gallantly.

"Hats off to those guys," he said. "They got it done. I didn't get it done."

Almost lost amid the fast times and the hunting of some resolution in the women's 100 was the significant achievement of veteran high jumper Amy Acuff.

Acuff, who will be 37 in two weeks, finished third behind Chaunte Lowe and Brigetta Barrett, making her fifth Olympic team. She is a six-time U.S. outdoor champion whose best finish at the Olympics is fourth place in Athens in 2004.

She took a year off after giving birth to a baby girl in 2010.

"I didn't do anything for about a year after giving birth," Acuff said. "Then I started working out and I said, 'Hey, this stuff comes back pretty quickly.'

"I think there's something to coming back stronger after giving birth. It's momma power."