Jeneba Tarmoh stands by decision

Updated: July 4, 2012, 1:55 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

EUGENE, Ore. -- Jeneba Tarmoh didn't think it was quite right the way she had to earn her place again in the 100 meters for the Olympics.

Still, a day after conceding the spot to training partner Allyson Felix, Tarmoh was at peace with her choice not to participate in a runoff to break a third-place tie. She realizes that some will second-guess her decision and can't understand why she would walk away from a moment so big.

"If standing up for what I believe in and not running because I believe I earned that spot, because I believe the emotional roller coaster they put me through was too much to go through at the moment -- if that's what makes you a quitter then I guess the definition of a quitter is misconstrued nowadays," Tarmoh told The Associated Press in a phone interview Tuesday.

She said the response to her resolution has been more favorable than anything. After leaving the U.S. track trials on Monday, a flight attendant even asked for her autograph at the airport and her seat companions wanted to know all about her story.

"That makes me feel confident," said Tarmoh, a standout at Texas A&M before turning pro last year. "But I do believe there are people out there that I can never convince why I made the decision I made. That's not my job. It's not to convince you to understand my position. I'm thinking what's in my heart."

She takes offense to any implication that she quit -- a label no athletes want attached to their name.

"How can I be a quitter?" Tarmoh said. "To define me as a quitter, it doesn't make any sense."

The entire situation has been confusing since Tarmoh and Felix crossed the line in 11.068 seconds on June 23.

There are those who view Tarmoh's choice not to race as a disappointment and a lost opportunity for the sport. USA Track and Field didn't have a protocol in place to break the tie and after adopting one on the fly, it looked like the story might come to a satisfying ending, with a one-on-one matchup to be televised during prime time.

Not to be.

"We all got blindsided a little bit," U.S. Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun said Tuesday. "It's unfortunate. But it is what it is. We have to respect these athletes' decisions."

The athletes and their agents met with USATF representatives Sunday, and Felix and Tarmoh announced they wanted settle matters on the track. The other options were a coin flip or one athlete conceding the spot.

Tarmoh was clearly unhappy. She felt like she had already earned her spot fair and square.

When she finished the original race, Tarmoh looked up to see her name on the scoreboard in the third spot behind winner Carmelita Jeter and runner-up Tianna Madison. She took a celebratory lap and soaked up the moment, hardly believing she was going to the Olympics in the 100.

It was all taken away when she learned officials took a second look at the results and declared a dead heat.

"I went from an ultimate high to a low," she said.

On Monday, hours before the winner-take-all race was scheduled to be take place and shown on NBC, Tarmoh threw in the towel. She wasn't going to race, not in her emotional state.

"I worked really, really hard to earn that spot in the 100," Tarmoh said. "It was more than me winning, it was me practicing since November and training every day. It was me cramping up in the middle of practice, me throwing up at practices. It was me getting mentally prepared, physically prepared, then going to the trials, and making it through each round and staying focused.

"It was me knowing that when I crossed that finish line, that I put my all on the track, waiting for my time to come on the board and seeing what place I got. That's why it hurt so much, to see that it was my time and my name on the board in third place. All of a sudden someone's telling me, `Sorry, we changed our mind. You didn't get third. It's a dead heat.' It was an emotional roller coaster."

Tarmoh is still going to the Olympics as a member of the 400-meter relay pool, USATF officially announced Tuesday.

Jeremy Wariner, a 2004 Olympic gold medalist, also made the squad as part of the relay pool. Wariner didn't qualify for a spot in the 400 at U.S. track trials.

The roster announced Tuesday includes four reigning Olympic champions: Lashawn Merritt (400), Angelo Taylor (400 hurdles), Dawn Harper (100 hurdles) and Stephanie Brown-Trafton (discus). It also includes 19 American record holders.

While she's in London, she's going to catch up with a brother she's never met. Tarmoh was young when her half brother moved to England, and can't wait to meet his family.

"I'm so thrilled for that," she said.

For now, it's back to practice with coach Bobby Kersee and trying to put the 100 incident behind her.

Asked if he supported Tarmoh's decision, Kersee said, "What I would have done in Jeneba's position was make a decision, and she made it."

As for this incident affecting her friendship with Felix, Tarmoh said that won't be the case.

"I sent her email and told her how I felt," Tarmoh said. "She responded, `I hope it doesn't change our relationship. I hope it makes it stronger.' I feel the same way. It hasn't affected our relationship in any negative way. I'm really happy with that."

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