The hardest part was getting the Olympic schedule changed. Not that running the 200- and 400-meter double will be easy, but without the international track and field federation’s cooperation, Allyson Felix’s shot at history would have ended before it began.
“I think if everything goes according to plan, and I’m able to make the team in both events, the schedule is still very, very difficult,” Felix said at the U.S. Olympic Summit. “Both of the events still overlap each other.
“I think, of course, the schedule change is great, that it makes it a little bit more feasible. I’m very, very grateful for this opportunity, but it’s still going to be a huge, huge challenge.”
USA Track & Field petitioned for the change in December, and the IAAF agreed to move the first round of the women’s 200 to the morning of Aug. 15. The original schedule made it impossible with the 200 prelims and the 400 final set for the evening session on Aug. 15, separated by only 75 minutes.
For me, it’s big to step outside a comfort zone and go after something new.
Allyson Felix, who’ll compete in the 200 and 400 in the Rio Olympics
Felix, 30, ranks among the best in both events. She won the gold medal in the 200 at the 2012 London Games in 21.88 and took the gold in the 400 at the world championships last year in a personal-best 49.26.
But being the best in both events at the same time is something else entirely.
“I’m an athlete,” Felix said. “I’m a competitor. I think I’m constantly just looking for new things to accomplish and [be] different. For me, it’s big to step outside a comfort zone and go after something new.”
The 100- and 200-meter double stands as a less difficult challenge, not only because the Olympic schedules don’t overlap but because training is similar for both. Felix qualified for the 100 and the 200 at the 2012 Games, but she finished only fifth in the 100 despite a personal-best 10.89.
The Summer Olympics, Aug. 5-21 in Rio de Janeiro, will feature 10,500 athletes from 206 countries competing in 42 sports.
Felix calls the 200 and 400 double “a different beast.”
“It’s a different challenge just because of the nature of the 400,” Felix said. “It produces a lot of lactic acid. To go from that to a sprint event, especially when the majority of the people in the 200 come from the 100 and with the overlap, ... it’s different. It’s different in volume, intensity and just managing the schedule really.”
Felix has experience running both in the same meet, having attempted the longer double at the 2011 world championships. She won silver in the 400 before fading in her best event, the 200, as fatigue set in. Her third-place finish snapped a streak of three consecutive world titles in her best event.
“I think the biggest takeaway from 2011 was I’m a sprinter, and that’s my advantage, and I think I got away from just that ballistic speed work,” Felix said. “That’s a big difference that I’m taking into this year — just remembering where my strength lies and not forgetting that in my training.”
4 gold medals won by sprinter Allyson Felix in three Olympics
Felix, a three-time Olympian, already ranks as one of the best female runners in history. She owns six Olympic medals, including four golds, and nine world championship medals, including nine golds.
Olympic gold medals in the 200 and 400 in the same Games, something accomplished only twice in history by female runners, would raise Felix’s profile even more. American Valerie Brisco-Hooks pulled off the double in 1984, and France’s Marie-José Pérec did it in 1996.
“Obviously, that would be something really special,” Felix said. “I try not to focus on those things too much. Man, it’s just another year and another goal for me. Just taking it on.”
The hardest part over, the hard work begins.