Dick Patrick wrote this piece about the match race, which is scheduled tomorrow, July 2, at Hayward Field. It will be one of the most watched events outside of the Olympics themselves. While it could be a positive for the sport, Dick Patrick reminds us what has happened with past match races.
By Dick Patrick
The runoff between Allyson Felix and training partner Jeneba Tarmoh to decide who gets the third U.S. spot in the 100 meters at the London Games will be held Monday, July 2, at 5 pm local time. Both runners, according to USA Track & Field, preferred to have a run off instead of a coin flip.
Tarmoh is scheduled to be in lane 4 and Felix in lane 5, at the event which will be free to the public at Hayward Field, where the U.S. Olympic Track & Field Trials have been held the 10 previous days.
Highly successful coach Bob Kersee, who trains both runners, is not happy with the decision. He thinks its too soon for them to be racing after the Trials. Both runners, timed in 11.068 seconds on June 23 in the 100 final, competed in three rounds of the 100 and three rounds of the 200 that ended Saturday. Felix won the 200 in 21.69, the No.6 time ever, and Tarmoh was fifth (22.35).
“If either of them winds up getting hurt, we’re going to look very foolish,” Kersee said.
He plans to supervise their warmup and have them examined by trainers. He wouldn’t hesitate to pull one of them if there are any pre-race problems. The event is scheduled to be televised by NBC during a break in its coverage of the swimming Olympic trials.
The recent history of match races or highly anticipated head-to-head battles has not been favorable. In 1997, Donovan Bailey of Canada, the ’96 Olympic 100 champ, raced Michael Johnson of the U.S., the ’96 Olympic 200/400 champion at 150 meters in Toronto. Bailey won as Johnson pulled a quad muscle.
The 2000 Olympic Trials ended with the 200, which was billed as a showdown between Maurice Greene, then the top 100-meter runner in the world, and Johnson. It ended with both pulling hamstrings though both recovered to win at the Sydney Games, Greene in the 100 and Johnson in the 400.