Allyson Felix waited. And waited. What was just a few seconds seemed an eternity as she looked up from the track at the scoreboard and watched the names appear. Carmelita Jeter. Tianna Madison. Jeneba Tarmoh. Allyson Felix.
The race was the 100-meter final at the U.S. Olympic track and field trials in Eugene, Ore., and Felix was devastated by her fourth-place finish. Handling the outcome graciously, she congratulated her friend and training partner, Tarmoh, on finishing third.
"Fourth is the worst, and I'm just really disappointed," Felix said. "I worked really hard, and it just didn't come together. I am happy for my teammate getting third, but I am really disappointed."
Less than 24 hours later, Felix learned she still was alive in the 100 meters, that the race had been deemed too close to call.
What followed was nearly a week of confusion, speculation and embarrassment for the U.S. Olympic Committee, which had no plan in place to settle a third-place tie. It was Tarmoh who put an end to the drama, bowing out of a proposed runoff. Felix would join Jeter and Madison in the 100 meters in London.
In the 200-meter final, Felix's specialty, she smoked the competition, running a personal-best 21.69. She was joined by Jeter and Sanya Richards-Ross on the 200-meter team.
"I was thrilled with my race," Felix said. "I feel like everything came together."
High school to the pros
Felix, 26, discovered her athletic abilities her freshman year in high school, when she first tried out for the track team at Los Angeles Baptist High School.
"My coach measured 50 meters, and I ran it so fast, he thought he'd measured the distance wrong," Felix recalled. "He had me run it a couple more times and realized he didn't measure it wrong."
In her junior year, she was named High School Athlete of the Year by Track and Field News.
Heavily courted by sponsors, Felix signed a six-year deal with Adidas, which paid her tuition at the University of Southern California. At 18, she competed in the 2004 Games in Athens and won silver in the 200 meters. She won a second silver in the 200 meters at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, along with a gold in the 4x400-meter relay.
Felix also has eight gold medals in multiple world championships from 2005 through 2011, all in the 200 meters or in relay events. Her only gold in the 100 meters came in 2001, at the world youth championships in Hungary.
Felix has a huge international fan base and says she looking forward to London. She has no intention of coming home with another Olympic silver medal.
"I've had a lot of time to think about my silver medals, and I'm very grateful for them," Felix said, "but I want gold more than anything."
Her chief competition in London will be the same athlete who edged her out for the gold in Athens and Beijing -- Veronica Campbell-Brown of Jamaica.
Running the 100-200 double is a change for Felix, who used to run the 200-400 double -- the more traditional path for 200-meter specialists. The 400 provides the endurance training, and the 100 provides the speed work.
She ran the 200-400 double at the world championships in Daegu, South Korea last year but found herself so fatigued after the 400 that her 200 race suffered.
"Daegu helped me see for myself how doing the 400 first then coming back to sprint worked," Felix said.
Ultimately, she and her coach Bobby Kersee decided the speed work was what she needed most and the switch was made.
"The speed part has always been there," Felix said, "it's been my start. I've always put myself at a huge deficit from the beginning. What's most important to me is what's going to help me run my best 200. Bobby felt running the 100 helps my 200 and for me, that's what it's all about."
The focus on changing her start has made a world of difference. Felix is getting out of the blocks quicker, which allows her take the lead going into the turn instead of running from behind. Her personal best at the Olympic trials (21.69) tops the personal best of Campbell-Brown (21.74), which she ran in the 200 final in Beijing to beat Felix.
"I was hoping she was going to run a 21.8 [at the trials]," Kersee said. "I knew she had a sub-22 in her. I knew she had to run sub-22 to make this team. To see her run 21.69 and be the fourth fastest of all time was just beautiful, especially in these [cold, rainy] conditions. I think she has more in her."
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