Highlights of the U.S. Olympic Trials
Ever since Allyson Felix and Jeneba Tarmoh tied in the 100m event two weekends ago, message boards and Twitter feeds have been abuzz with the controversy surrounding the race. But it was more of a spectacle about the inner-workings of the USATF that became exposed, if you ask me. There was no procedure to break a “tie,” particularly a third-place tie that would decide the final Olympic Qualifying spot. Once the procedure was put in place and explained to adoring fans and newbies alike, the suspense of not knowing added a sense of drama, both personal and professional, to the sport.
On the one hand, Felix and Tarmoh are friends and training partners. They share the same coach and the same Olympic dreams. On the other hand, Allyson Felix is a proven superstar, while Tarmoh is motivated by her thirst for an Olympic berth.
Neither athlete has a more compelling quest for gold in London. The singular focus needed in any event, much less a technical event like the 100m where your chances can be over in the first few nanoseconds after the gun goes off, means that each woman deserves a chance to compete. However, the fact that one of them could not enter the race in London is not a disappointment. The very reason to applaud Olympic athletes is that what they do is so darn hard — so selective that sometimes, the fourth-best athlete in the world has to stay home. The disappointment in last week’s controversy is that it nearly overshadowed the more compelling dramatic moments of the week. Here are my top five favorites:
5. With dangerously slick conditions in the high jump, reigning World Champion Jesse Williams places fourth on misses, and barely earned his Olympic berth when youngster Nick Ross failed to make the “A” Standard.
4. On his final throw, men’s Discuss winner Lance Brooks met the Olympic “A” Standard and secured his spot on the team. One can only imagine how bittersweet it would have been to be national champion and yet be ineligible to compete in London. What added to the drama is that Brooks didn’t know he was in jeopardy unless he got the “A.” Apparently, nobody told him of the recent rule changes that prevent any “B” qualifiers from competing.
3. Newcomer Natosha Rogers from Texas A & M fell early in her 10,000m race during Day 1 of the Olympic Trials, only to get back up and show a gutsy second-place performance where she surged to the lead with 100m to go. In just her fourth attempt at the distance, Rogers likely lit fires under countless 10-year-old girls who are now thinking, “I want to do that someday.”
2. Veteran Julia Lucas literally ran herself off the Olympic team in the 5000m final. If she hadn’t pushed the pace with three laps to go, the chances that Kim Conley would have run an Olympic Qualifying mark may have been slim. In essence, she could have run SLOWER and still secured her trip to London. Instead, Lucas left every ounce of energy on the track, floundering over the last 200m to the point where staying upright looked questionable. Nobody can question her dedication, heart, or guts, but she miscalculated her finish by about five meters, and I can’t get the image of her struggle to finish out of my head.
1. I admit I cried (a little) when Ashton Eaton crossed the line to break the world record in the Men’s Decathlon. It was a rare and wonderful moment in television coverage of track and field where the camera made a connection with the emotion of the sport. I don’t know if it was the shot of his mother hugging him at the line, or whether it was the sheer excitement of not knowing the outcome (which was possible because it was live, a rarity in our sport). But I applaud NBC for showing the moment in its entirety.
What was your favorite moment? Comment on this post or email me at [email protected] to continue the conversation.