The pressure’s off Allyson Felix.
|Allyson Felix celebrates wining gold in the women's 4 x 400m relay
final at the London 2012 Olympic Games on Aug. 11, 2012.
By winning Olympic gold in the 200 meters in London, ending an eight-year chase, Felix was relieved to finally cross out the item at the top of her to-do list. But it’s a long list.
“It was definitely very satisfying, and it feels really great to have that accomplishment, but I still feel there’s a lot left to do,” said Felix, who also won gold medals on the 4 x 100 relay (as part of the world-record-setting team) and 4 x 400 relay for a total of six Olympic medals dating back to 2004.
Felix, named the USOC's 2012 Olympic SportsWoman of the Year for her Olympic efforts, will run her first individual race of the season Saturday in the Jamaica International Invitational Meet in Kingston, facing archrival Veronica Campbell-Brown on her home turf in the 100-meter dash.
“I feel really excited when I get the opportunity to race Veronica,” said Felix, 27, who opened her 2013 campaign in late April with a leg on the 4 x 100-meter relay at the Penn Relays. “I know that she is a top competitor, and I know that I need to be ready to race her. But I love it at the same time because she makes me better and I hope that I push her as well.”
This is a rare early-season meeting between the two sprinters. Campbell-Brown has a 6-1 head-to-head record in the 100 while Felix has a 7-4 edge in the 200. At the 2012 Games, Campbell-Brown was third in the 100 and Felix placed fifth. But while Felix celebrated her 200 victory on the heels of two silver medals, Campbell-Brown the two-time defending champion, found herself off the podium in fourth.
Both expect to vie for the biggest prizes of the 2013 season at the IAAF World Championships in Athletics Aug. 10-18 in Moscow.
Campbell-Brown, 30, the 2011 world indoor 60-meter champion and reigning 200-meter world outdoor champ, is known for her fast start, while Felix is strongest on the homestretch.
“I know if I can get away from Allyson I have to stay away,” said Campbell-Brown, “because if I get away from her she will be coming!"
Felix is aiming for an unprecedented fourth gold medal at worlds in the 200. She won in 2005, 2007 and 2009, then dropped to third in 2011 while attempting the difficult 200-400 double (she also won the silver in the 400 and gold medals on both relays).
Including relays, Felix has won more gold medals than any other woman at worlds – eight – and is tied with Carl Lewis and Michael Johnson overall.
“Just being a competitor, I feel like my natural instinct is to continue on and to run faster times,” said Felix, who was named the 2012 World Female Athlete of the Year by the international track and field federation. “Just to improve is always a challenge … to push yourself and to see how fast you can go. So, I’m still very passionate about the sport and I’m still enjoying it, and I feel like there’s a lot left still to accomplish.”
Like she did last season, Felix will focus on the 100 and 200 instead of doubling the 200 with the 400. However, she’ll race the 400 occasionally – including her first Diamond League event of the year May 10 in Doha – so she can still be considered for the 4 x 400 relay at Worlds.
|Olympic gold medalist Allyson Felix visits the The Empire State
Building on Aug. 15, 2012 in New York City.
Felix readily acknowledges that her training for the 400 in 2011 took away some of her sharpness in the shorter event.
“I definitely learned what it did to my 200 and I didn’t really like it,” Felix said. “I wasn’t used to it. I didn’t have the same pop and same sprint that I had always had, so I went back to the (100) and I worked on my mechanics.”
But her emphasis on the 100 involved Felix in the most controversial race of the year. At the U.S. Olympic Team Trials, she tied with training partner Jeneba Tarmoh for third place in the 100. Only one could advance to the Olympics in the event and their proposed run-off became a national debate.
After Tarmoh conceded the spot to her, Felix ran a personal best of 10.89 seconds during her fifth-place finish in the Olympic final. That speed then carried her to the 200 crown.
The two remain training partners in Los Angeles with coach Bob Kersee.
“I think it was just an unfortunate situation,” Felix said, “that neither of us asked to be in or expected to be in and something that we just had to deal with at a very important time. We just had to get through it.
“Our situation is good now. We train together every day; we’re supportive of each other. I think Jeneba’s going to have a great year.”
Felix said she is getting back to form gradually. She hasn’t raced in Jamaica since the World Junior Championships in 2002, where she placed fifth.
“I’m just excited to open my season, see where I am,” Felix said.
Six days later, she will defend a 10-race undefeated streak in Doha spanning eight years. Felix will face reigning world champion Amantle Montsho of Botswana, London Olympic Games silver medalist Christine Ohuruogu of Great Britain, 2008 Olympic silver medalist Shericka Williams of Jamaica and U.S. Olympic gold medal winning 4 x 400-meter relay teammate Francena McCorory.
Felix will finally circle back to her favorite event, the 200, in a meet May 21 in Beijing. Her personal best of 21.69 seconds, set last year at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials in Eugene, Ore., made her the fourth-fastest woman in history.
Although Felix now knows what it feels like to shatter a world record – she ran the second leg on the U.S. 4 x 100 relay in London that clocked 40.82 seconds and obliterated East Germany’s mark of 41.37 from 1985 – she is not optimistic about her chances to become the all-time best in the 200.
The world record of 21.34 seconds, set by Florence Griffith-Joyner in 1988, “is very far out there,” Felix said.
“I never like to say never as far as the records, but realistically speaking … I don’t think that record is going anywhere anytime soon," Felix added. "I could definitely be wrong. Track is like that sometimes where amazing things just happen that you’re not suspecting. You’re always training to push yourself, and you never want to limit yourself.”
It might as well be on the list.
Karen Rosen is a freelance contributor for TeamUSA.org. This story was not subject to the approval of any National Governing Bodies.