Tianna Madison

Like "barely moving" ... at 90 mph

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. -- At the first turn, my head cracked against the right side of the bobsled. Then the sled swung the other way, and my head slammed against the left side of the sled.

Good thing I was wearing a helmet. But for 46 seconds, I pretty much felt like a bobble-head doll as we rocketed down the bobsled course, the same one they were running a World Cup event on that weekend.

I was the No. 2 guy in a four-man sled that late afternoon and, frankly, they were being nice to me -- Bryan Berghorn, the driver; Michael Burke, the No. 3 guy; and Shane Hook, the brakeman. We didn't start at the top of the course. We put in a few turns down. We only reached about 70 mph. Not 80 or more, like they do when they really mean it.

"I'd do rides all night if I could," Berghorn, a Lake Placid guy, said, and now having done it once, experienced the wild roller-coaster ride, it begs the question -- how in the world do you learn to maneuver these things? (By the way, not to brag -- OK, I'm bragging: I did not get woozy or worse.)

With the Sochi 2014 Games approaching, bobsled is increasingly soaking up the spotlight. The U.S. team features standouts such as Steve Holcomb, the reigning four-man Olympic and world champion, and his powerhouse pushman Steve Langton; moreover, track and field stars such as Tianna Madison and Lolo Jones are making a bid to join the 2014 winter team.

Victory in a bobsled race typically comes by fractions of a second.

Control matters.

So how do you achieve that control?

Because, just to be obvious, ice is really slippery.

Well, to be equally obvious, you don't achieve that control overnight.

It takes a lot of practice. With that practice comes experience. And with that experience comes feel.

And then, finally, comes confidence.

Jazmine Fenlator started on the bobsled in 2007 after running track in college. Her first ride, she said, "was not comfortable -- in all honesty, it let like someone stuffed me in a garbage can and someone rolled me down the hill." But, she said, "I definitely enjoyed the thrill."

That was in the back of a sled, of course. Someone else drove.

After a few trips in Park City, Utah, in the front in 2008, she finally went to formal driving school in 2009 in Lake Placid. "What takes getting used to," she said, "is staying calm and staying relaxed. You don't feel the G forces as much but you do feel the pressure."

She said, "I definitely relate it to being a teen-age driver with your permit to being a driver five years later," adding, "Over time you become more aware and more comfortable."

With corresponding results.

After working her way up to several World Cup starts last year, Fenlator and Jones took silver at the World Cup event here in Lake Placid; teammates Elana Meyers and Madison took the bronze.

For his part, Holcomb said, "It's just like anything else. You don't start at the top your first time. You start where you did. And then you go down a few times. Your first couple runs -- you're absolutely terrible, you're bouncing off walls. It's a learning curve. And then you get to the point where you understand what you're doing."

Think about what it's like, even as an experienced driver, when you first merge onto an interstate highway, he said. You look to your left and all the cars are going 70 or 75 miles per hour. Everything seems to be going so fast.

Now give it 10 minutes.

You're cruising down the highway at 75. The speed is relative. You're so in control that you can fiddle with the radio, or eat an apple, or whatever, all the while keeping your eye on the road -- and, again, you're doing 75. More, if the highway patrol isn't around, right?

That's what it's like when you have experience on the track. Doing 75, or even 80, doesn't seem at all perilous.

In fact, it's just like what football players say. The game slows down.

Holcomb won the two-man race in Lake Placid, and then again at the next tour stop, in Park City, and would go on to win the two-man for a third straight race, in Whistler, B.C.

Before that third race, on a track widely considered the fastest in the world, he said, "We're going 85 to 90 miles per hour here in Whistler. It's fast. But I can see everything in front of me. I'm in control. I know exactly what is going on.

"It feels," he said, "like we are barely moving."

Stick-to-itiveness pays off for U.S. relay

LONDON -- When she is on the track, Carmelita Jeter  is all business. So when, as she crossed the finish line Friday night, her outstretched left hand -- baton in hand -- pointing out toward the red-and-black digital clock just in front of her, you knew it was something special. An instant later, the clock flashed: "New WR."

Jeter's anchor leg put the exclamation point on a spectacular race, the U.S. 4x100 women's relay team winning its first gold medal in 16 years. The clock stopped at 40.82 seconds.

It was the first time any women's relay team would run under 41, and it put an immediate and emphatic end to years of drama over dropped batons and other mishaps involving U.S. women's sprint relay teams. The U.S. men's 4x100 team gets its chance at redemption Saturday night.

"It feels surreal," Tianna Madison who ran the first leg Friday night, said, adding a moment later, "We really came together and made it happen."

Read the rest at NBCOlympics.com: http://bit.ly/P6fv4e

Women's 100: let's have a run-off

EUGENE, Ore. -- There's a simple and elegant solution for USA Track & Field as it wrestles with the dilemma posed by the dead heat in the women's 100 meter Saturday between Allyson Felix and Jeneba Tarmoh. It's right there in the other marquee Summer Games sport, swimming, and it happens all the time.

It's a swim-off.

USATF should put Felix and Tarmoh to a run-off. It's the only fair way to settle this. It's the American way.

Carmelita Jeter won the 100, in 10.92 seconds. Tianna Madison finished second. They're both going to London.

Originally, Tarmoh was declared the third-place finisher and Felix fourth. The official scoring sheet said Tarmoh had edged training partner Felix by 0.0001 seconds. Tarmoh was even brought to a news conference, where she said she was "so thankful" to make the London team.

She also said, however, amid rumblings that something might be going on, "I have no idea what happens if it's a tie."

As that news conference was ending, USATF communications director Jill Geer took to the dais to announce that, in fact, the two runners had ended in a dead heat, both timed in 11.68 seconds.

What happened, Geer said, is that two cameras are used to determine photo finishes. One is on the outside of the track. The other is on the inside.

The outside camera in this race proved inconclusive because both runners' arms obscured their torsos.

The inside camera is shot at 3,000 frames per second. It was analyzed by timers and referees. They simply could not separate the two racers, and declared a tie.

USATF has no procedure in place to break such a tie.

This, let's be candid, is a major flaw.

This is the kind of thing that leads to litigation.

This is the kind of thing that leads to absurdities that the matter be settled with rock, paper, scissors; or the drawing of lots; or dice; or a hand of poker.

It also lends itself to observations that Felix is a three-time world champion who has two Olympic silver medals and the support of major corporate sponsors, while Tarmoh has two NCAA second-place finishes. In the abstract, which of the two do you think those sponsors would like to see pursue her much-publicized double?

Further, it puts enormous, and unfair, pressure on Felix to be magnanimous by stepping aside in favor of Tarmoh and let her rival and training partner take the spot. Doing so might earn Felix considerable public goodwill. But this is the Olympics. The Games come along every four years. Why should Felix, who ran a 10.92 earlier this year in the 100 in Doha, give up a medal shot?

This is why the only fair solution is a run-off.

Don't bother with any noise that Olympic sprinters can't be bothered with running an extra race, that doing so would put an unfair burden on their bodies.

Olympic swimmers do it with regularity.

Just last year, for instance, Josh Schneider and Cullen Jones, SwimMAC club teammates, had a swim-off to determine who would claim the final 50-meter freestyle spot on the 2011 world championships team in Shanghai.

The swim-off was required because they had tied, at 21.97 seconds, at the 2010 nationals. The swim-off was held in May, 2011, in Charlotte, N.C.; Jones finished in 22.24, Schneider in 22.28, and that was that.

Schneider didn't complain afterward, saying of Jones, who won a gold medal swimming with Michael Phelps in the 2008 Beijing 400-meter freestyle relay, "He is a gold medalist for a reason. It's hard to topple a giant like that."

Similarly, in 2009, Jones tied for second with Garrett Weber-Gale (who also swam on that Beijing 400 free relay) in the 50 free, at 21.55. They swam it off two days later to see who would swim in Rome at those Rome world championships. Jones swam 21.41 to break Weber-Gale's American record, 21.47. In Rome, Jones finished fifth, the top American in the event.

In December, 2010, meanwhile, at the world short-course championships in Dubai, Schneider's semifinal time of 21.29 tied him with Australia's Kyle Richardson for eighth place. At the end of the session, the two guys swam it off. Schneider went 21.19, Richardson 21.28. In the final, Schneider, swimming in the outside lane, Lane 8, got off to a great start and won a bronze medal, behind Brazil's Cesar Cielo and France's Fred Bousquet.

If they can do it in swimming, and they not only can but they do, they not only can do it in track and field but they must. It's the only fair solution.