EUGENE, OREGON — Greetings from Eugene, Oregon, aka TrackTown, USA. I’m taking a brief respite from my duties with the Wizards and the Mystics to cover the 2012 Olympic track and field trials. Fellow track and field junkies, please check back on Facebook and Twitter (firstname.lastname@example.org), as I follow our Olympic hopefuls for the London games.
We have had some major news from the trials so far:
* Ashton Eaton set a new world record in the decathlon, with 9,039 points. Eaton’s mark broke a record that had stood for 11 years.
* Reigning Olympic decathlon champion Bryan Clay did not qualify for the team.
* In the women’s 100m final, held on Saturday, controversy rages.
Carmelita Jeter won (10.92), Tianna Madison finished second (10.96), and Jeneba Tarmoh and Allyson Felix tied for third place, both finishing in 11.068 seconds.
Initially, it looked as though Tarmoh had edged out Felix for the final spot, but upon further examination of the photo finish photos, the race was just too close to call.
The solution being discussed is a run-off between the two, but since both athletes are also competing in the 200m, the timing of the run-off is critical. The 200m qualifying heats are Thursday, and the final will be held Saturday.
The Associated Press is reporting that Bob Kersee, who coaches both athletes, is in favor of a run-off to make the final decision, but does not want Felix and Tarmoh to have to do it until after the 200m.
“Just leave them alone until after they run the 200 meters and then come up with a decision how they’re going to figure out the way they want to settle this,” Kersee told the AP.
“This is a situation to be dealt with later, after you give the athletes an opportunity to focus on what they need to do, what they’ve been waiting around to do for four years.”
On Day Three, there were three marquee finals - the men’s and women’s 400m, and men’s 100m.
In the men’s 400m final, LaShawn Merritt won with a time of 44.12. Also qualifying for London are Tony McQuay (44.49) and Bryshon Nellum (44.80). Two-time Olympian Jeremy Wariner failed to qualify for his third Olympics in the 400m, finishing sixth (45.24).
In the women’s 400m final, it was Sanya Richards-Ross with the win in 49.28. Dee Dee Trotter was second (50.02) and Francena McCorory was third (50.43).
The final event of the day was the men’s 100 meter final, which was won by Justin Gatlin. Also making the Olympic team were Tyson Gay (9.86) and Ryan Bailey (9.93).
Walter Dix, the 2008 Bronze medalist, finished last with a time of 10.95. Dix, 26, was clearly still feeling the effects of a injured right leg, and was seen limping after the prelim’s earlier in the day.
The win is a redemption for Gatlin, 30, who won Olympic Gold in 2004, then served a four year ban for doping. Gay, 29, also appears to be fully recovered after suffering a hip injury last season. Gatlin and Gay have a friendly rivalry, and Gatlin said he was glad to be able to compete against a healthy Gay.
“I’m glad he’s back, and I’m glad he’s healthy,” Gatlin said after the race.
“I just went out there and gave it my all.”
Asked how much he had left in the tank at the age of 30, and after being out of track so long (while serving his ban), Gatlin offered a sly smile and held up his trials medal.
“Enough to win another Gold.”