Olympics: Carmelita Jeter

Watch: Saturday's London Report

August, 4, 2012
8/04/12
7:05
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ESPN's T.J. Quinn and Julie Foudy break down Saturday at the Olympics -- Michael Phelps' finale, how Americans sprinters fared in the women's 100 meters and Serena's big win at Wimbledon:

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EUGENE, Ore. -- The U.S. Olympic Committee likes to trot out the phrase, "The Hardest Team to Make," to sell the Olympic track trials.

Often, it's just hype. In the women's 200 meters this week, it's a cruel fact.

The depth of the field in the half-lap sprint has some of the fastest women in the world running in awe. Or fear. Or silence. And this was after just the first of three qualifying rounds Thursday night.

"It's unbelievable," said Lauryn Williams, the Olympic silver medalist in the 100 at the 2004 Athens Games and the 2005 world champion who scraped into Friday's semifinal round as the 21st and final qualifier in 23.20 seconds. "This is the best 200 I've ever seen in all my years competing, for sure."

Bianca Knight, one of the top curve runners in the world who was part of the U.S. world champion 4x100 relay last year at Daegu, was only the 17th fastest qualifier (23.11). She tried to conserve as much energy as possible. She has no choice. "I have to save everything I can," she said, "because the next round will definitely be run like a final. The heats are so stacked."

You couldn't throw a rock without hitting a major championship medalist Thursday afternoon. And if you had, they probably wouldn't have noticed. Carmelita Jeter, the fastest woman alive and reigning 100-meter world champ, clocked the second-fastest time of the day, then kept right on sprinting past the media, without so much as a sideways glance.

Allyson Felix, the Olympic 200 silver medalist in Beijing (2008) and Athens (2004) and world champion at the 200 in 2005, '07 and '09, smiled but said nothing as she moved on by. Felix and fellow Nike runner Jeneba Tarmoh had other reasons not to talk.

They're mired in USA Track and Field's 100-meter dead heat controversy, which won't be resolved until after Saturday night's 200 final. Even if they wanted to talk about the 200, they wouldn't risk having to answer questions about who's going to London as the third member of the 100 squad.

The top finisher Thursday, Tianna Madison, was asked to stop and talk the media after coming home in 22.57, but she just shook her head and kept going. Too tired, she said.

One reason everyone's ratcheting up their intensity is Sanya Richards-Ross, the 400-meter standout who is trying a 200-400 double for the first time. Richards-Ross qualified easily for the 400 earlier this week, and she has run the fastest 200 in the world this season. She alone looked carefree among the contenders Thursday evening.

"That first race is the hardest," Richards-Ross said, "because you really want to go for it, but you want to stay controlled."

It certainly didn't appear difficult. She flew out of the blocks and scorched the curve, then jogged home in 22.67. Richards-Ross is running with as much confidence as anyone anywhere right now, and that includes the Jamaican Olympic trials. "I felt good today and I'm looking forward to tomorrow."

She's the only one. Richards-Ross' presence in the field almost certainly means someone like Jeter or Felix, two of the sport's elites, or Tarmoh or Madison, who are having outstanding seasons, or Knight, who has worked steadily toward the Games for the past four years after a standout career at Texas, will be left off the team.

Knight figures it will take a time of 22.6 or better just to make it out of the semifinals; to win the final, or even make the team, it may take under 22 seconds. "I'm definitely going to have to PR," Knight said.

It's some frightening math.

"You have that top six in the 100," said Williams, referring to the number of 100-meter finalists who entered the 200. "And then you have three or four others who threw their name in the hat, people like Sanya Richards. It's going to be a great race."

And that's just the semifinals.

NEW YORK -- Double talk was in the air all week ahead of the Adidas Grand Prix meet here at Randall's Island on Saturday.

Kenya's David Rudisha, the world-record holder in the 800 meters, mused during a press appearance about running the quarter mile as part of a 4x400-meter relay team should his countrymen qualify for the Olympic final. He did nothing to dispel such talk at the meet Saturday, destroying the field and running the fastest 800 on U.S. soil in 1:41.74.

The 100 world champion, Yohan Blake, did nothing to hurt his chances of doubling at the Jamaican Olympic trials with a 9.90-second victory in the 100.

American sprinters Carmelita Jeter and Allyson Felix have been coy all spring about whether they will double when the Olympic trials convene in Eugene, Ore., late this month. Jeter won gold in the 100 at the world championships in Daegu, South Korea, and silver in the 200 last season, while Felix is a medal threat in the 100, 200 and 400. Their logy performances in the Grand Prix 100, however, in which Jeter finished third (11.05) and Felix placed fourth (11.07), don't bode well for either attempting a 100-200 double.

[+] EnlargeJeter/Felix
Andy Lyons/Getty ImagesCarmelita Jeter and Allyson Felix have yet to reveal their 'double' plans ahead of the Olympic trials later this month.

But one other potential "doubliner" in London, Sanya Richards-Ross, made a nearly airtight case for chasing gold in two events.

Richards-Ross has long been a giant in the 400, holding the American record and winning the world championship in 2009. She also impressed at the June 2 Prefontaine Classic in Eugene with a smoking 49.39-second victory there. Yet her Saturday performance in the 200 might be the single most important portent from the New York meet. Richards-Ross exploded out of the blocks and simply overwhelmed her best competition, Bianca Knight, to win in a personal record of 22.05 seconds, the fastest time in the world this year.

The race was a statement both to the world track community, which has seen Richards-Ross dominate the 400 for years but disappoint in big meets, and to her coach, Clyde Hart.

When asked if the result indicated she was ready for the double, Richards-Ross left no doubt.

"This is a big-time indicator," she said. "Any time my 200s are really fast, my 400 gets easier. And I asked Coach about attempting the double, and he said, 'Let's see how you are today.' Hopefully I made my point and I'll be able to do both in Eugene."

Richards-Ross' sprint speed has never been better. She opened up the season with a wind-aided 100 time of 10.89 in Austin. In the 200, her previous personal record was 22.17 in 2006, the year she set the American record of 48.7 in the 400.

She's in position to erase memories from last year in Daegu, where she finished out of the medals, and at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, where Great Britain's Christine Ohuruogu edged her for gold in the 400.

"I'm really happy that my races have come together again," she said. "I lost a bit of confidence last year, and I feel it coming back, so I'm very excited for the season."

No wonder. She ran what she called the best curve in her life Saturday, which, coming in the wake of the Pre result, is erasing any doubts that may have haunted her from last season.

"I went out in Eugene and really executed, ran 49.3, my fastest time in three years, so that gave me the extra confidence I needed today to go out there and let go and let my body run freely," she said.

Now, the goal is to survive the grueling rounds in Eugene.

"I've got to make the team, for sure, in the 400 first and then in the 200," she said. "That would be icing on the cake. I just want to make the team safely, and then put on a great show in London."

A show that's looking more and more like a double feature.

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