Olympic SportsWoman of the Year: Three-Time Golden Allyson Felix
One hundred days before the Opening Ceremony was set to begin in London, Allyson Felix was standing in the middle of New York City’s Times Square on a breezy April morning.
Amidst the craziness and hustle of one of America’s busiest areas, Felix quietly gathered her thoughts about the biggest competition of her career. Reporters were asking her whether she planned on competing in the double in the Games. If so, would it be the 100 and the 200 or the 200 and the 400? How was she preparing with such little time remaining?
Without divulging any secrets, she said, “Lord willing, everything goes to plan.”
One hundred and 12 days later, she was standing on the top of the Olympic podium with a gold medal around her neck.
Everything, at least this time around, went according to plan.
Twice before, however, Felix had to settle for a silver lining. Twice, she had finished runner-up in her favorite event, what she calls “my baby,” the 200-meter dash in the Olympic Games.
Although she had won the race at the World Championships three times, the Olympic gold medal continued to elude her. After finishing second a second time in Beijing, she told reporters it was “Déjà vu, and not in a good way.”
That all changed in London this summer.
On Aug. 8, Felix crossed the finish line in 21.88 seconds, 0.21 ahead of the 100-meter champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, who ran a personal-best 22.09. American Carmelita Jeter was third while Veronica Campbell-Brown, who had beaten Felix twice in this distance for the Olympic gold, finished fourth.
The gold medal finally belonged to Felix.
“Now I am able to say I embrace that journey, I embrace the defeats,” said Felix, 26. “That’s what pushed me all those years. It made tonight very, very sweet.”
The gold medal in the 200 was the most coveted by Felix, but that was not all she achieved in London. In addition, Felix helped Team USA win the 4 x 100 and the 4 x 400 relay gold medals, making Felix the first American woman to win three gold medals in track and field in one Olympic Games since Florence Griffith-Joyner achieved that feat in Seoul in 1988. Felix also raced in the 100, placing fifth.
Earlier this week, the U.S. Olympic Committee named Felix its Olympic SportsWoman of the Year. The USOC also named swimmer Michael Phelps its Olympic SportsMan of the Year, the U.S. women’s eight rowing team as the Olympic Team of the Year, swimmer Jessica Long the Paralympic SportsWoman of the Year, wheelchair track and field racer Raymond Martin the Paralympic SportsMan of the Year and the U.S. men’s quad doubles tennis team was designated Paralympic Team of the Year.
The six awards will be presented at a celebratory dinner during the 2012 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Assembly held Sept. 20-21 at the Antlers Hilton Hotel in Colorado Springs.
In addition to her accomplishments in London, Felix broke Griffith-Joyner's record in the 200 at the U.S. Olympic Trials with the fourth-fastest time by a woman in history -- a time of 21.69 seconds.
The U.S. Olympic Trials provided more drama for Felix than she ever expected. Racing in the 100, she tied training mate Jeneba Tarmoh in a photo finish for third place. Both were clocked at 11.068 seconds. The top-three finishers would qualify for the Olympic Games, and there was discussion of everything from a coin flip to a runoff to determine whether Felix or Tarmoh would be the third representative in the Games. Ultimately, Tarmoh decided against a runoff, which put Felix in the 100 in London.
Once in London, however, things did run smoothly. Felix surged in the final 60 meters of the 200 to win her first Olympic gold medal in an individual event. Two days later, she, along with Tianna Madison, Bianca Knight and Jeter, smoked a world record set back in 1985, finishing in a speed of 40.82 seconds. The previous record, set by East Germany, was 41.37. The Americans beat the Jamaicans, who were clocked at 41.41. And in Felix’s final event of the Games, she, along with DeeDee Trotter, Francena McCorory and Sanya Richards-Ross, again struck gold in the 4 x 400.
“It's unbelievable,” Felix told reporters after claiming her third Olympic gold medal in London. “I think about how I ended in Beijing, just feeling discouraged there. Four years later to have all this happen, to really accomplish every goal that I set out, is such a blessing.”
Four years from now, Felix thinks she will be in Rio, saying she believes she has one more Olympic Games left in her. Will she run the 100? Will she win gold again in the 200? How about the 400?
It’s too early to say, but Felix hopes by then, the plan will go as well as it did in London.
Amy Rosewater is a freelance contributor for TeamUSA.org. This story was not subject to the approval of any National Governing Bodies.