Hard choices ahead for Allyson Felix

LOS ANGELES, May 11, 2012 – The headline from today’s Diamond League meet in Doha, Qatar was Justin Gatlin’s sensational 9.87-9.88 win over Jamaican star Asafa Powell in the men’s 100 meters. But among a whole series of other compelling results was this stunner in the women’s 100 meters:

1. Allyson Felix (USA), 10.92
2. Veronica Campbell-Brown (JAM), 10.94
3. Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (JAM), 11.00
(wind legal: +0.7 meters/second)

So, with just 77 days before the Opening Ceremonies of the Games of the XXX Olympiad in London, the hard choices for Felix and her legendary coach, Bobby Kersee, are here:

(A) Run just the 200 meters?

(B) Run the 200 and 400, as in 2011?

(C) How about the 100 and 200 instead?

There will be multiple factors that will go into the decision, not the least of which will be Felix’s overall health and fitness at the time of the Trials. Some of the others:

Olympic time schedule:
The decision between a 100/200 and 400/200 double isn’t made much easier by looking at the Olympic schedule. For a 100/200 double, Felix’s racing schedule would be:

100 m heats: 3 August – 7:05 p.m.
100 m semis: 4 August – 7:35 p.m.
100 m final: 4 August – 9:55 p.m.

200 m heats: 6 August – 7:20 p.m.
200 m semis: 7 August – 8:25 p.m.
200 m final: 8 August – 9:00 p.m.

That really isn’t much different than the 400/200 double, which does include one more round, but no more than one race on any day:

400 m heats: 3 August – 12:00 p.m.
400 m semis: 4 August – 8:05 p.m.
400 m final: 5 August – 9:10 p.m.

200 m heats: 6 August – 7:20 p.m.
200 m semis: 7 August – 8:25 p.m.
200 m final: 8 August – 9:00 p.m.

There is no rest day between the 400 m final and 200 m heats as there would be between the 100 m and the 200 m.

Olympic Trials time schedule:
The Trials pose even less of a problem for Felix, as the mid-meet rest days offer her plenty of time off to prep for the 200:

22 June: 100 m heats/400 m heats
23 June: 100 m semis & final/400 m semis
24 June: 400 m final

28 June: 200 m heats
29 June: 200 m semis
30 June: 200 m final

Felix would be favored to make the U.S. team in any events she chooses, and is the unquestioned favorite in the 200; she has plenty of competition in the 100 (starting with reigning world champion Carmelita Jeter) and the 400 (starting with former world champ Sanya Richards-Ross).

Felix and Campbell-Brown have traded the top spot on the medal stand in the 200 meters and the Olympic Games and World Championships since 2004, with Campbell-Brown winning Olympic gold in 2008 and 2008 and at the 2011 Worlds. Felix won the world title in 2005, 2007 and 2009 and Olympic silvers in 2004 and 2008, but faded to a bronze in the 2011 Worlds after finishing second in the 400 m there.

They’re essentially co-favorites for London.

Campbell-Brown is almost sure to run the 100, where she was the 2007 World Champion and won silver in that event in 2011. Fraser-Pryce is the defending Olympic champion, and then there is the powerful Jeter, who stormed past everyone in 2011 and was a convincing winner in the World Championships.

Of further note is that Felix set her 100 m lifetime best today in Doha at 10.92, and while the season is still young, she is still well-back of the personal bests of Jeter (10.64 ‘09), Fraser-Pryce (10.73 ‘09) and Campbell-Brown (10.76 ‘11), not to mention Jamaican Kerron Stewart (10.75 ‘09) and Kelly-Ann Baptiste of Trinidad & Tobago, who has run 10.86 already this season behind Jeter (10.81) at the Jamaica Invitational. Just medaling in the 100 will be very, very tough.

The picture in the 400 is much more confused. Richards-Ross ran a superb 49.5 relay leg at Penn, and has a 50.11 run behind Jamaica’s Novlene Williams-Mills (49.99 world leader; PR of 49.63 in ‘06) at the Jamaica Invitational to her credit this season. Defending world champion Amantle Montsho of Botswana (50.52; PR of 49.56 ‘11) and defending Olympic champ Christine Ohuruogu (50.92; PR of 49.61 ‘07) haven’t shown much so far this season, but it’s early. No one knows what fast-on-the-clock, but light-on-medals Russians like Anastasiya Kapachinskaya (49.35 last year) might bring. So the field is fairly open; Felix ran a lifetime best of 49.59 last year, but it was only good for silver in Daegu and took way too much out of her for the 200s that followed.

What’s the goal?
Ultimately, Felix will have to decide what her goals are for the London Games. Still just 26, she has at least one more Olympics to look forward to and if she wants to win the 200 m gold above all, she‘ll be best off running that alone, or in concert with the 100.

Realistically, running the 100 could set her up for four medals, in both sprints and both relays, but it’s hard to believe – today – that she would win the century.

If, however, she has her eye on two individual goals and just one relay, then the 400/200 double is still out there. She has been through it once and would go through it again in Eugene on a more relaxed schedule in late June. If she is in good-enough shape, she can win the 400 and have a shot at the Jamaicans in the 200 as well, then on to a likely 4×400 m relay win.

Can Kersee get her there? Felix is a thoughtful and disciplined competitor, so she is unlikely to reveal much until she chooses her events for the Trials: the entry deadline is June 18, with final declarations due on June 20. The racing starts two days later.

[Update: At the May 13 U.S. Olympic Media Summit in Dallas, Felix was asked about a double and after acknowledging she would like to run two events, but as to which, said “Bobby will make that decision when we’re a little closer.”]

(You can stay current with Rich’s technology, sports and Olympic commentaries by following him at www.twitter.com/RichPerelman.)


  1. I do not think she has a chance of medaling in the 100M. The pure sprinters are just too fast.

    Her best chance is the 200M followed by the 400M. Richards Ross is rounding into shape and if she finds the 2009/2010 form she will be hands down the favorite.

    Felix should stick to the 200 get that gold in her pocket and then look around for another event.

  2. I think Allyson has a better change in the 200/400 than the 100/ 200. She will have to run fast even in the 200 if Jeter and knight are in the final. I think Jeter is a clear favorite in the 100. I do not view Richard Ross as the clear favorite; she is one of the four favorites. She is not as dominant when she has to runs rounds. If Allyson is serious about winning the gold in the 200, than she should concentrate on the 200. If she is serious about doubling, it should be the 200/400.

  3. Felix simple isn’t build for the rounds, if she attempts to win 2 individual gold she will end up coming home with silver and a bronze at best. In the 100m she’s got no chance, she just doesn’t have the legs speed or explosiveness despite her win in Doha. It’s early season and some of the sprinter are just starting the speed work to win the 100m Gold she’ll need to do 10.70 or lower. For the 400m she just can’t do the rounds and then do the 200m. Even if she does the 200m only it’s gonna be tough Jeter will improve this season and VCB always brings her top game for championships plus Bianca Knight finally looks like she taking track seriously. Looking forward to it though it’s gonna be crazy….!!!!

  4. We saw what happened to her lastyear in the world championships.She put out so much energy in the 400 and still did not win.So by the time she ran the rounds for the 200,her tank was virtually empty.Its the worse 200 finals i have ever seen her run.If i was her coach, i will advise her to go for the 200 and the two relays.The 100 is a tossup among Jeter,fraser-price,campbell,baptiste and kerron stewart.Yes, she can win a medal in the 400 but it will jeopardise her strongest individual event,the 200.

  5. Felix should stick to the 200/400. Plus, now it’s her second time running the 400m, she now has some understanding of how its done. Look out Sanya.
    Bianca looks like she lost some weight…this is good. Now she needs to work on her form. Her upper body and arms seems to swing from side to side. If she works on that then we will see a good match up for Felix and VCB.

  6. Felix has yet to run a 400 this year.
    It’s not unreasonable, in view of Doha and her 60m indoor runs, to suspect that she focused more on the short sprints in her training this winter. This may have diminished her capacity to run the 400m in a multiple rounds setting, cause it’s very hard for an experienced athlete to train and improve everything from 60 to 400 at the same time.

  7. I think she has less of a hard choice than a wealth of opportunity in front of her. People are talking about how the rounds wore her down last year as evidence that she shouldn’t try to double, but Allyson is known as a cerebral athlete – do we really think she and Bobby didn’t learn from that and maybe adjust her training?

    I do think we can get some clues, as Mike Delano said, from what she’s run so far this year – nary a 400 in sight. She doesn’t seem to have the pure speed to be a medal threat in the 100, but then again we haven’t seen her run a full season of 100s – is she capable of sub 10.7? I don’t think we know for sure. The speculation is fun, but the real fun will come when she laces them up in June and July. Allyson is always worth watching, no matter what she decides to run!

  8. Allyson has the tools to become the greatest complete sprinter (100-400) we’ve seen in modern times. First of all she comes from a God fearing family; secondly, she’s fearless; third, she has a strong work ethic; and fourth never tell anybody what they can’t do, they just may prove you wrong. (Philippians 4:13)

  9. Somehow I don’t think coming from a God fearing family has anything to do with it. If it did she would already have won 2 OLY gold medals at 200M and Tebow would be wearing a championship ring now. IMO she does not have the raw foot speed for the 100M. She will need to run in the 10.7 range to be competitive and make a mark there and I just don’t see it.

  10. She needs to concentrate on the 200 meter dash & run both relays. Forget doubling with the 400, too grueling. Forget the 100, not quite fast enough. She would have to run at least 10.7 and she’s more like a solid 10.9 sprinter. She’s got the speed and strength to really excel in the 200, plus she could run on the 400 meter relay and also the 1600 meter relay. That would be 3 medals for her and her best race, the 200, would not suffer or be compromised in any way.

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