August 8, 2012

Felix exchanges silver lining for pure gold as U.S. track has field day

Olympic gold validates Allyson Felix's well-hyped career.

LONDON -- For Allyson Felix, Wednesday offered a first. Finally.

Felix finally beat Jamaica's Veronica Campbell-Brown in a 200-meter Olympic race, finally winning a long-awaited, much-anticipated gold in her signature event.

"It's been a long road," said Felix, who finished in 21.88 seconds. "I never wanted to give up. It's been a long journey -- never easy -- but you can't lose sight of your dream. It's just awesome. I've wanted it for so long. This moment is really priceless."

Team USA seemed destined to disappoint in track and field before Felix, Aries Merritt and Brittney Reese saved the day. Off to a slow start -- on pace for only 20 medals after five days of competition -- the U.S. won seven of 12 possible medals in the four events that had finals Wednesday.

Merritt won the men's 110 hurdles, and Reese the women's long jump.

The Americans, who won a disappointing 23 medals in the sport in Beijing and had a goal of 30 for London, now have 20 with 18 finals remaining.

"It let's me know that America has the Moves Like Jagger in track and field," Jason Richardson, the silver medalist in the 110-meter hurdles, said in reference to the popular Maroon 5 song. "In American sports, ours is one of the better ones that we have. China has diving, but we definitely have track and field."

To the victors go the spoils. Or at least, that's the way it's supposed to work.

Felix, though, had reaped the spoils before the victory.

That is part of the problem for track and field, which has fallen behind swimming in popularity in the U.S. It is a sport without a proven star, like a Michael Phelps, who has gold medals to go with his charisma.

Felix certainly has done more in the sport than hurdler Lolo Jones, who was ripped in a New York Times article this week for being more style than substance. Jones has become a recognizable name despite not having an Olympic or a world outdoor championship medal.

Felix at least has three world championships on her résumé, but America has been waiting for her to bring home an Olympic gold medal since she was an overhyped teenager.

She has an estimated net worth of $8.5 million, but Gatorade, Visa, AT&T, P&G and Nike, among others, signed her to deals more for her good looks, her self-proclaimed "nice-girl" image and her potential than what she had done on track's biggest stage.

Now, at least, she has one individual Olympic gold.

Felix had finished 0.13 behind Campbell-Brown at the Athens Games in 2004 and 0.17 back of her rival four years later in Beijing. Felix had said she would give all three of her world championship victories over Campbell-Brown in exchange for just one of Campbell-Brown's Olympic gold medals.

"To lose to her twice in the Olympic Games has been tough," Felix said. "But she's not like a horrible person, so it's hard to hate her or anything like that. It's just more of when we get in the races together, we push each other."

Campbell-Brown was only fourth Wednesday. Jamaican Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, a two-time Olympic 100-meter champion, won the silver in 22.09, with American Carmelita Jeter finishing third in 22.14. It was the second medal for Jeter, who won the silver in the 100.

Former University of Texas runner Sanya Richards-Ross, who won the 400 on Sunday, was fifth in 22.39.

Richards-Ross was asked not once, but twice, about Felix's breakthrough.

"You didn't hear me the first time?" Richards-Ross asked, mildly irritated, after a repeat question about Felix.

There is a first time for everything, and Felix had hers Wednesday.

Charean Williams


Twitter: @NFLCharean

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