Allyson Felix took the first steps towards a possible 200-400 double at the 2012 Olympic Games by taking part in both events this weekend at the Aviva London Grand Prix. Felix, a three-time World champion and twice Olympic silver medalist in the 200m, handily won her specialty event by over half a second on Friday evening in 22.37 seconds. The 400m on Saturday was much more of a struggle as she narrowly held off European champion Tatyna Firova and American champion Debbie Dunn in 50.79 seconds.
Felix has always been an undisputed talent ever since her days starring at Los Angeles Baptist High School in Southern California, where she set the high school national record in the 200m. After turning professional straight out of high school instead of running for USC, she has excelled in both the short and long sprints, winning her first US title this summer in the 100m in June and excelling in the 400m in Diamond League competitions this summer. Despite these factors that may indicate she’s ready for this type of a challenge, Felix faces a number of formidable challenges to a double individual gold in London.
1. Aerobic strength: Being brought up as more of a 100/200 runner, Felix appears to lack the aerobic strength needed to truly excel in the 400m. Both at the Prefontaine and London Diamond League contests this year, she stormed to a quick lead but barely hung onto her lead over the final stretch. These shortcomings can be overcome with more strength training and/or a modified racing strategy that calls for a more moderate first half and a furious finishing surge.
2. Stiff competition: The athlete that has twice stolen Olympic glory from Felix is Jamaica’s Veronica Campbell-Brown. Although mysteriously absent for many of this year’s biggest meets, Campbell-Brown has always been a runner for the big occasions and will surely be ready to defend her title in London over 200m. In the 400m, Felix faces Sanya Richards-Ross, the woman who has dominated that event for the last four years. Although out in 2010 with a series of illnesses and injuries, the Texas Longhorn grad was at the top of her game in 2009, when she was unbeaten in the Golden League series, convincingly won the World title, and nearly defeated Felix over 200m at the World Athletics Final. A healthy Richards-Ross in 2012 makes Felix’s task a very tall one.
3. Number of rounds/relays: Even though the London Games schedule will allow for the 200/400 double, the sheer number of rounds an athlete will have to run will take a toll on their body. If Felix was to attempt both events, she would run four rounds of the 200m and three heats of the 400m at both the Olympic Trials and Olympics. A fatigued Felix could also impact the performances of the United States’ relay squads as she will likely be asked to have integral roles on the 4×100 and 4×400 relays.
4. Olympic distractions: Each Olympic year, track and field and its biggest starts are thrust into the spotlight and given enormous media attention as these athletes strive to win not only gold medals, but also bring glory for their nations. In the midst of the attention, athletes are bombarded with interview requests and have camera crews at many of their training sessions. These events may serve as a distraction to Felix, who will surely be prominently featured by media outlets for her attractive looks and friendly personality in addition to her athletic accomplishments.