With Rio schedule change, Allyson Felix seeks 200-400 double
ABS-CBN Sports on Feb 19, 2016 10:08 AM
FILE - In this Aug. 28, 2015, file photo, women's 400-meter gold medalist Allyson Felix celebrates on the podium at the World Athletics Championships at the Bird's Nest stadium in Beijing. Now that international track and field officials have shifted the schedule at the Rio Olympics, American star Allyson Felix will have a chance to win double gold in the 200 and 400 meters. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung, File)
RACHEL COHEN, AP Sports Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — If all goes according to plan, Allyson Felix will run a semifinal of the 400 meters around 8:45 p.m. on Aug. 14. About 13 hours later, she'll race in the preliminaries of the 200, then she'll have another 13 hours or so before the 400 final.
It's better than the original schedule for the Rio Olympics, which had the 200 prelims and 400 final in the same evening session to essentially make doubling up on the two events unworkable. International track and field officials agreed last month to move up the 200 prelims to give the 30-year-old American star a chance to compete in both.
It still isn't exactly going to be easy.
"Just happy for the opportunity to go for it, even though it's going to be really challenging," Felix said Thursday.
She hopes that someday the 200 and 400 rounds will never overlap, as is the case for the 100 and 200. At the 2012 London Games, the shorter double was the one Felix tried. She won gold in the 200, her signature event; even with a personal best in the 100, she was just fifth.
"With the 1-2 double, my start is not great; that's always posed a huge challenge for me," said Felix, who has also won three relay Olympic gold medals. "I've always known that I have potential in the 400, and it's been in the back of my mind. I'm 30 years old — if I'm going to do it, it's going to have to be now."
And now that she finally earned that elusive Olympic gold medal in the 200. Felix had to settle for silver in 2004 and 2008 despite winning three straight world titles in the event. If not for that victory in London, Felix probably wouldn't be trying the 200-400 double.
"That 200 gold was something I had wanted for so long, and it was such a rocky, up and down road to get there," she said. "Once I did get it, I was able to say, 'Hey, I want to challenge myself more and not set limits for myself, see what I can do.' I've always been that type of competitor. I just want to know. I want to see what I could handle."
Felix attempted the longer double at the 2011 world championships and won silver in the 400. But in the 200 final, the fatigue showed and she faded to third, snapping the streak of three straight world titles.
At last year's worlds, she ran just the 400 because of the schedule — and won.
The 400 may be her newest challenge, but a first Olympic gold medal in it isn't Felix's main goal.
"The 200 is my baby; that's the race that I love," she said. "The 400 — we have a love-hate relationship. I would love to defend my title in the 200. But I'm embracing the 400 more (than before)."
Practices now seek to replicate the demands of the overlapping schedule in Rio. There are a lot of intense back-to-back days of workouts. She'll be doing late-night and early-morning sessions to mimic the turnaround at the Olympics.
Felix is racing the 60 at Saturday's Millrose Games to work on that not-so-great start. It will be her last indoor meet of the season as she plans to skip the world indoor championships.
She came to track and field late, so she doesn't have many memories of Michael Johnson's record-setting 200-400 double at the 1996 Atlanta Games that captivated American fans at a U.S. Olympics. Felix is seeking to become the third woman to accomplish the feat.
She had always planned to enter both the 200 and 400 at this summer's U.S. trials, where the Americans' depth makes a spot in Rio no guarantee even for an athlete as gifted as Felix. But when she got a call from her brother saying the IAAF was going to change the order of events, the chance to make history felt that much more tangible.
"It's awesome to know that if I am able to make it, it's going to be a little better schedule," Felix said. "It's motivating to know that it is real.
"I just have to do my part."