15th IAAF World Championships In Athletics / Squawks From The Bird's Nest
Felix's Quest For Triple Gold Achievement Would Burnish Her Long Sprinter
by Dave Hunter
In the unlikely event that American sprint goddess Allyson Felix would never win another global championship, her track & field legacy is unquestionably secure. Consider this: along with a gaggle of silver and bronze, Felix's trophy case contains 3 world championship gold medals in the 200 meters along with 5 golds in the relays [2 in the 4x100 and 3 in the 4x400]. In Olympic competition, she has two relay golds in the 4x400 and another gold medal as a member of the world record-setting 4x100 relay in the 2012 Games. And - of course - she has her long-sought-after individual Olympic gold medal which she captured in London in winning the 200 meter final. Her PR clocking of 21.69 in the w200 is #4 on the all-time list.
More than simply one of the most decorated sprinters of all time, Felix has put together a career that also displays longevity and versatility. Her first senior global competition was a dozen years ago at the Paris World Championships in 2003. There is every reason to believe that Felix - who won't turn 30 until November - can continue to be a dominating sprint athlete at Rio and beyond if she so chooses.
But perhaps the most impressive facet of the Nike athlete's gleaming career is the range of her talents. As a sprinter, she has earned global medals in all three of the dash events: the 100m, the 200m, and the 400m. With personal bests of 10.89, 21.69, and 49.59, the multiple-time USA outdoor champion is one of only 7 women in the sub 10-sub 22-sub 50 sorority [Felix; Marita Koch; Marie-Josee Perec; Gwen Torrence; Valerie Brisco; Irina Privalova; and Barbel Wockel]. Quite simply, when attention is paid to times posted, honors won, head-to-head competition, and versatility, and the inevitable discussions ensue about who is the greatest and most versatile sprinter of all time, Allyson Felix is clearly in the conversation.
All track & field athletes are goal-oriented competitors. But Allyson Felix - with her highly successful and respected coach Bobby Kersee calling the shots, pushing the right buttons, and whispering in her ear - is especially so. Careful planning preceded her several-year successful quest for the individual 200m gold medal in London. When that gold was draped on Felix, the only void in her stunning career resume was filled.
And now at these 15th IAAF World Championships in Athletics, the California native has her undistracted focus on yet another lofty goal: three gold medals - in the 400m; the 4x100 relay; and the 4x400 relay. Felix has turned that World Championship hat trick once before. In 2007 Felix struck gold in both relays and the 200 meters - a feat matched only by one other woman: the iconic Marita Koch. If you listen carefully, can't you almost hear Kersee - a master of motivating his athletes - speaking in hushed tones to Felix and outlining how capturing World Championship triple gold once again would further distinguish her from the legendary German sprinter and would add additional polish to her already-sparkling career?
Allyson Felix took an important step toward her second WC hat trick in the opening round of the women's 400 meters. In her first round heat, the 29 year old Nike athlete - who sports a PR of 49.59 - got out hard and pushed the first 160 to slide into the driver's seat. Running stress-free around the curve, Felix cruised up the final straightaway, shut it down at about 380m, and crossed the line first in 50.60. "I wanted to control it," noted Felix afterward in the mixed zone as she described how she dictated the race tempo. "I had to keep going a little bit. But that was the plan." In Tuesday's semi, Felix again breezed, hitting the line in 49.89 - making her the #2 performer on the world leader board behind only Francena McCorory who failed to qualify for this competition. Her commanding - yet controlled - performance may have been the most comfortable sub-50 400m you'd ever hope to see. Given that the 400m final is on Thursday, Felix's current 400m PR may well be toast before the weekend.
Felix's individual entry into only the 400 meters culminated weeks of speculation as to whether or not the long sprinter would attempt a most challenging World Championship 200m/400m double. Difficult scheduling - semi-finals of the w200 would be followed by the w400 final approximately an hour later - ultimately scuttled any planned attempt. Encouraged by Kersee, Felix - never shy about exploring opportunities to stretch and expand her skills - ultimately chose the 400m as the individual event she would target. "My thinking was that I've done the 200 quite a bit," noted Felix in explaining her decision. "It just felt like this is a good opportunity to step up and see what happens." Upon reflection, is she still comfortable with her decision to eschew the 200 meters - which she has won at three prior World Championship gatherings - to launch off into the uncharted waters of 400 meter competition? "Well, I always want to do the 200," laughed Felix. "So don't ask me right now."
With the sprinter's individual event decision behind her, it is clear that Felix is focused upon a sequential attack on the three competitions on her dance card. She well knows that you can't win all three of the contests in which you are entered if you don't win the first one. Once Felix finishes her job with the 400m, then - and only then - will she turn her attention to the relays. Is she still planning on relay duty? "As of now, I am planning on doing both of them," revealed Felix. With opening rounds and finals Saturday and Sunday, the relays will be one of the highlights of the concluding weekend. On the world leader boards, the USA is ranked #1 [with 6 of the top 7 times] in the 4x1 and is listed as #1 [with 4 of the top 6 times] in the 4x4. Given her demonstrated domination earlier this week in the first two rounds of the 400m, the top flight marks the USA relay teams have already posted, and if the Americans can avert baton disaster, Allyson Felix just might be able to capture a very special triple crown here in Beijing.
Dave Hunter, who ran his marathon P.R. of 2:31:40 on the highly revered Boston Marathon course back in the Paleozoic era, is a track and field announcer, broadcaster, and journalist. To find out more about Dave, please visit www.trackandfieldhunter.com.