Updated April 17. Looking forward to seeing Allyson compete in Doha on May 6! An example of an athlete with a career that transcends high school, young adult and seasoned competitor, Allyson has been a pro athlete for sixteen years!
Allyson Felix is the focus of this feature by David Hunter. In the article, Hunter asks the reader if Allyson Felix is the greatest ever? Truth is, many can not remember a time when Ms. Felix was not racing on the global level.
Allyson has graced covers of American Track & Field, Athletes Only and California Track & Running News, three of our titles.
Her move from high school phenom to professional athlete has been tried by many, but only successfully by a few.
I remember speaking with Allyson and her brother Wes, on a bus from the Doha airport to our hotel for the Doha DL last year. Allyson is poised, thoughtful and focused.
This year should be fascinating for Allyson Felix, and as our friend and fellow writer, David Hunter knows, could go a long way into answering if Allyson Felix is the greatest ever.
Allyson Felix: The Quest For the Double
Legendary Sprinter Senses It’s “The Right Time To Go For It”
Great athletes relish a challenge. It is ever so in track & field, where driven performers – faced with formidable competition, a targeted time, or height, or distance – are motivated to establish a goal to fortify their push for success. And once in a while, truly outstanding competitors in sport can actually be observed going out of their way to create their own even-greater challenge, to inspire themselves to even more magnificent performances.
Allyson Felix – one of the most decorated and versatile sprinters in track & field history – is one of those rare, exceptional athletes. Already one of the most storied 200m runners ever to grace the sport, Felix – the reigning Olympic 200 meter champion who also has won multiple World Championship gold medals in the furlong – is not content to seek only to successfully defend her 200m Olympic crown in Rio. She is also seeking gold in the 400m. “I guess the way that I look at it is really testing myself, pushing myself,” notes Felix who occasionally refers to the 200m event as ‘my baby.’ “A double has always been important to me. And so if I didn’t do it, I would always wonder if I could or I’d have regrets about it. For me, it’s all about challenging myself, doing something different, stepping outside of my comfort zone of what I usually do.”
The pursuit of a Rio 200m/400m double has not been a whimsical frolic for Felix. The Olympic long sprint challenge – which has only been accomplished twice [Valerie Brisco Hooks ’84; and Marie Jose Perec ’96] – has been a special, personal quest she and her coach Bobby Kersee have considered at length. “The double has always kind of been in the back of my mind, I guess,” offers Felix. “Originally, I have done the 100m/200m double and so I would say in 2012 is kind of when it became more real to me. And when I tried it in 2011 [when she won World Championship silver in the 400m, bronze in the 200m, and gold in both relays], I felt like I learned a lot about the process.” Her 400m victory in a world-leading time at the 2015 World Championships also played a pivotal role. “And after this past summer I just felt more confident – like it was the right time to go for it. So after Worlds I would say is when we really decided to move forward with the plan.”
Felix is quick to note that Kersee and Brisco-Hooks – also on her coaching team – have provided invaluable support as she pursues twin sprint golds. “It is great working with Bobby knowing that he has done it before when he coached Valerie to do it. So that’s always really put me at ease that he has had that experience,” notes the California native. “And then I have a great relationship with Valerie. She has been an assistant coach with us for a number of years. And so I am always able to go to her and ask her questions. Valerie has always been so down to earth and is very real to me about whatever it is that I am asking her. She is a really great resource. And so that is something I have done and will continue to do as I continue to train.”
Even though the Games are still nearly 4 months away, the quest has not been without other challenges. First there was the issue of the Olympic schedule of “athletics.” As originally released, the Day Four schedule would have only provided 75 minutes between the opening round of the 200m and the 400m final. Kersee and the USATF – working in tandem – were able to secure a scheduling change which will now provide approximately 13 hours between these two events. “I know that Bobby had hoped that the events would not overlap – that was kind of the dream scenario. But they [Kersee and USATF] just really advocated – not just on my behalf – on behalf of other runners. I think the idea is that the 200m/400m double would be treated just the same as the 100m/200m double. And I think that’s the point we hoped to get in. And it has been like that in the past.”
Secondly, while wholesale changes in Felix’s workout regimen were not required, some training adjustments were implemented to ensure the 4-time Jesse Owens Award winner could capture just the right balance of strength and speed. “The biggest differences in training would be in the volume of work that I do – making sure I am getting enough meters that allow me to be strong in the 400 and also to be able to account for really heavy days back to back in an intense schedule,” notes Felix. “The typical sprint work and all of the speed and endurance work that we do remains the same – just more volume.”
The sprint legend cites the heavy competitive work load and the toll it will take on her body as the greatest challenge of the double. “I think the biggest thing is my body handling that number of races – especially with the 200m before the final [of the 400m – all on Day Four] and also the semi and final of the 200m [on Days 5 and 6] after all of the fatigue in my legs. I think it is being able to still sprint after that workload.”
The 200m/400m event schedule for U.S. Olympic Trials is clearly more accommodative than the Games agenda. But Felix doesn’t see the Trials as a dress rehearsal for Rio. She is taking nothing for granted, focusing instead on bringing her “A” game to Eugene in early July. “For me, I’m just working not to get ahead of myself. My focus is definitely on the Trials – to be at my best to be able to make the team. The schedule [for the Trails] is a much better schedule than for the Olympic Games will be. This is not to say that [the Trials] won’t be difficult. It’s just more recovery time [at the Trials].
As she prepares to open her outdoor campaign next month, the defending Olympic 200m champion likes where she is right now. “I am feeling good. I am feeling healthy,” says Felix in an upbeat way. “I’m happy and Bobby’s happy where our training is right now. We’re still in a really heavy period and it will remain that way,” explains Felix who will compete at the Mt. SAC Relays later this month. “His training typically has us racing through competitions and all eyes are on the Trials. And so that will definitely be the plan. I’ll run about four individual races or so before the Olympic Trials. And I’ll get started with that in May with the first two being in Doha and in Cayman. And the Prefontaine Classic will be one of the other remaining two.”
With no signs of slowing down and several more years of dominating sprinting quite likely to be in her future, Felix has nonetheless given some thought about how she would like her career to be viewed. “I would love to be remembered as an athlete who was a great competitor, who always went for it, wasn’t scared of a challenge; and as one who loved life away from track as well,” states Felix who would like to work with children and find a way to stay connected with the sport when her days of world class competition have concluded. “My community is important to me. Children are important to me. And I’ve always tried to give back.”
But there is likely more to Allyson Felix’s legacy. Even if the celebrated long sprinter never again climbs a global competition podium – a highly unlikely scenario – her impressive and exclusive career accomplishments to date undoubtedly establish her as one of the greatest and most versatile sprinters of all time.
But is Allyson Felix the greatest ever? With respect to honors won, she is virtually without peer: consider her 6 Olympic medals [four gold]; 14 World Championship medals [10 gold]; and 4 Diamond League crowns. It is true a few other athletes have authored more impressive careers in one, maybe two, of the sprint trio [100m/200m/400m]. But Felix [10.89/21.69/49.26] has demonstrated an unmatched versatility and excellence in all three of the sprint events. She is the only woman to sprint under 11.00 in the 100m, under 21.70 in the 200m, and under 49.50 in the 400m – ever. A growing number cite Felix’s global successes and high-ranking marks in the broader sprint spectrum in concluding she is, if fact, the greatest ever. Although there are others who currently remain to be convinced, success by Allyson Felix this summer in Rio in her quest to capture Olympic gold in both the 200m and the 400m would go a long way in eliminating any remaining doubt.