Home > Athletics > Doubling Up: A Bridge Too Far For Allyson Felix

Doubling Up: A Bridge Too Far For Allyson Felix

September 19, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

At the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta two athletes stood head and shoulders above the rest. France’s Marie José Perec and poster boy of the games Michael Johnson both won two individual golds apiece in the 200 metres and the 400 metres. No athlete, male or female, has since matched this feat, but one was expected to have a serious chance of doing so in London next year; the USA’s Allyson Felix.

Since bursting on to the scene as an 18 year old in 2004 with a silver medal in the 200 metres in Athens, Felix has established herself as one of track and field’s true superstars and most consistent performers. Since clinching that silver medal in Greece, the affable American has won three consecutive world titles in the 200 metres (2005, 2007 and 2009) and a second Olympic silver in 2008.

2010 saw the Californian place much more emphasis on running the 400 metres as she looked to prepare for a potential double assault in London. Felix proved that her graceful running style makes her the most naturally talented sprinter in world athletics (with the exception of Usain Bolt) as she took to the longer distance like a duck to water. Running both the 200 and 400 metres did not seem to be a problem at all as she became the first person to win two IAAF Diamond League Trophies in the same year, winning 21 of 22 races she started. Felix was looking a hot bet to emulate Perec and Johnson.

Fast forward 12 months and many are now questioning the wisdom of Felix’s planned double in London next year. The reason? A sub-par showing at this year’s world championships in Daegu.

Allyson Felix will hope to raise the US flag in victory next year in London (This image is the property of AP)

It seems odd to describe a silver medal and personal best in the 400 metres and a bronze medal in the 200 metres as disappointing, but for Allyson Felix, it is. Given her talent and dominance in both events in recent times, she was expected to return to the United States with two gold medals in her suitcase.

Her second place finish in the 400 metres was the more satisfactory result as she ran a personal best of 49.59 seconds in a close race won by Botswana’s Amantle Montsho. Felix’s performance and her strong finish in particular suggested that there is more to come over the longer distance, but her bronze medal in the 200 metres in a time of 22.42 will have been a great disappointment for the three-time champion. The final took place only four days after the final of the 400 metres, with the heats starting only three days after her silver medal performance and if truth be told, the 25 year old looked fatigued. It is one thing doubling up at Diamond League meets, but another matter altogether at World Championships and Olympics when there are three and four rounds respectively. The 200 and 400 metres are all about speed endurance and so fresh legs are crucial. As such, it is a particularly hard double to achieve, especially for one of Felix’s build. In stark contrast to the more powerful and muscular Veronica Campbell-Brown and Carmelita Jeter, Felix is a very slight, very graceful runner and the sheer amount of running she had to do looked to have taken it out of her. She did recover to run an impressive leg in the USA’s 4×100 metres relay, but again looked jaded in her country’s 4×400 metres triumph.

There is no doubt that Felix is an Olympic champion waiting to be crowned but if she attempts to win two gold medals in London next year, she may jeopardise her chances. This is not to say that winning gold in both events is beyond her, but her sub-par showing in Daegu will have given her food for thought. One individual gold medal will complete her collection and so it is now up to her and her coach Bobby Kersee to assess what happened this summer in Daegu before deciding what to do in London next year. Let’s hope they make the right decision as Felix’s talent and exemplary attitude are more than worthy of Olympic glory.

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