Felix sets sights on elusive Olympic gold in 200
(Eds: Updates with Felix's finish on Saturday night. With AP Photos.)
By BY PAT GRAHAM
AP Sports Writer
EUGENE, Ore. -- Allyson Felix rented out a roller-skating rink for her 26th birthday and threw a bash with a 1970s theme.
She was a natural on skates, too, not even falling once.
On the track, she's even more graceful. Felix runs so effortlessly that her hair, done up in a ponytail, hardly even swings behind her.
She has long been the face of American track and yet her prime years are still ahead.
Felix the sprinter feels like she's running fast with the London Games approaching. But Felix the competitor worries she's running out of time to capture that elusive gold in the 200 meters.
So far, she has two Olympic silver medals in her signature event. A career without that title, well, just wouldn't be complete.
"I feel like if I walked away not winning it would feel like a failure," Felix said in an interview before the Olympic trials, where she earned a spot to London on Saturday night by winning the 200 with a personal-best time of 21.69 seconds. "Just because it's not my first games, not my second, my third time. I've had eight years to think about being a silver medalist. This time I want to win."
Already so popular in the track world, Felix gained even more exposure over the last week -- to a more mainstream audience, no less -- when she and training partner Jeneba Tarmoh finished in a third-place tie in the 100 for the last Olympic spot in that event.
Being thrust into the spotlight hardly rattles Felix. When the cameras come on, she's well-spoken and very friendly -- the ideal ambassador for a sport that's craving more attention.
Only, this time, she was silent. She hasn't been talking about the tiebreaker and how it will be decided simply because she wanted to put all her focus on making the team in the 200.
That was priority No. 1 simply because she wants to become No. 1. Finishing runner-up in back-to-back Olympics does not sit well with her.
In 2004, she was the relative new kid and really wasn't expected to win, but gave Veronica Campbell-Brown a scare before the Jamaican broke away for the win.
Four years later, Felix was the favorite and was expected to take gold, only to watch Campbell-Brown capture another crown at her expense.
So heartbroken after the final in Beijing, Felix dissolved into tears.
Over her career, she's won high school, Diamond League, national and world championship titles in the 200. She has everything else, except the one crown she really covets.
Sure, she won Olympic gold as a member of the 1,600-meter relay in 2008 -- a big deal, but just not quite the same.
Everything she does is set up with the 200 in mind. That's why she scrubbed her plans to run the 400 at trials, because it might make her more vulnerable in the 200. It did at worlds in South Korea last summer, when she tried to run the 200-400 double and finished with bronze (200) and silver (400).
So instead, she elected to run the 100 at trials, because it would make her stronger for the 200.
Felix even trained a little different this offseason to prepare for London. She fine-tuned her technique, but also spent one day a week running around four miles on the road.
"It's nothing compared to the middle-distance runners. For me, it's like a marathon," Felix said.
Any plans to step up to the 10,000 meters?
"No, no, no," she said.
The person running the show and barking out orders at practice is her coach, Bobby Kersee, who has high expectations and can be hard to please. But that's because he cares.
"He can be a big baby at times," Felix said, laughing. "He's very demanding. He's energetic. He likes to yell and scream.
"At the same time, he's kind and knows how to communicate. He's a very good teacher. He can be crazy, but it's a good situation."
When she held her birthday party last November, Kersee showed up and showed off in the rink.
"Bobby totally surprised us," Felix said. "Awesome skater and no one had any idea."
Away from the track, Felix loves movies, hanging out with friends and -- surprise, surprise -- competition. Whether it's bowling or board games, she's out to win.
"I'm super competitive," she explained.
She's also involved in a charity called "Right to Play," an international organization that tries to improve the lives of children in disadvantaged areas through sports.
"I compete all around the world, but never get out to see people," Felix said. "This really affected me. I get in there and talk to kids and their families, have a sense of what's going on in those places."
Although Felix has been around for a while now, she's still young by sprinting standards. Asked what advice she would go back and give a younger version of herself, Felix chuckled.
"Be patient," she said. "Don't get caught up in the distractions. That's a lesson I tried to learn at a young age, but it comes with experience.
"It takes time to run fast. Just stay at it and be dedicated and eventually it will come around."
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press
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