Two medals, but not old glory for Felix

Chicago Tribune

When Allyson Felix looked to her right at the press conference for the women's 200 meters Friday, she saw the two women's sprint stars of her sport.

That was supposed to be the right way to look at Felix less than a year before the London Olympics.

Veronica Campbell-Brown of Jamaica, Carmelita Jeter of the United States and Felix each had run two individual events at the world championships in Daegu, South Korea this week.  Each had won two medals.

But Campbell-Brown and Jeter had gold and silver, while Felix's were silver and bronze -- the first time she will go home without an individual gold at the biennial meet since 2003.

"I'm disappointed and tired," Felix said after finishing behind Campbell-Brown and Jeter in the 200.

Felix had taken a bold gamble that turned out to be double or nothing, and odds are high she won't be trying it again next year.

"If I had to say right now, it would not be high on my list of things to do," Felix said of doubling at the London Games.

 Jeter intends to double in 2012.  Campbell-Brown didn't in 2008 but may again.

(Before getting too deep into this double, some props for a quadruple:  U.S. long jumper Dwight Phillips' fourth world title.  Injured nearly all this season Phillips -- also 2004 Olympic champion -- proved once again he is the man for big meets, jumping 27 feet, 8 3/4 inches to win.)

The six races of Felix's 400-200 double were considerably more demanding than the six for the 100-200, especially since her longer race came first.  That was evident when Felix tried to change gears late in the 200, and her engine sputtered.  Her legs wobbled like jelly after the finish.

Running into a mild headwind, Campbell-Brown won in 22.22 seconds.  Jeter, the 100-meter champion, clocked 22.37 and Felix, 22.42.

Felix had won the previous three world 200 titles.

"I don't even want to think about what might have happened (in the 200) if I didn't do it (the double), because it was all about going for it," Felix said.

Felix' mantra about trying a second individual race for the first time at a global championship was to get out of her comfort zone.

There was no doubt about her discomfort Friday.

"I think I ran with a lot of heart because that was about what was left for me," Felix said.  "My turnover wasnt really there.  I just tried to gut it out."

Maybe Team Felix just got a little ahead of itself this year.  They hired a big-time Los Angeles public relations company, PMK*BNC (female clients include the likes of Whitney Houston, Whoopi Goldberg, Serena Williams, Danica Patrick, and Glenn Close) to handle media relations for the runner, obviously hoping the results at worlds would turn Felix into a hot property leading up to the 2012 Olympics.

So it would be easy to say doubling was more an attention-getting marketing strategy than a sports strategy, especially during the first season since her pro debut in 2004 that Felix had lost as often as she won in international meets.

But the charming Felix had gotten NBC's star billing before the 2008 Olympics after having run -- and won-- just the 200 at the 2007 worlds, where she also collected two relay golds .  NBC already has chosen her as its marquee track athlete in promotions for the 2012 Olympics, and Nike recently put her on a 69-foot-by-36-foot billboard in Times Square.

"Recognition is cool, but it's not my end goal to be famous," Felix told me at her apartment in Playa Vista, Calif., this spring.

The end goal is to win an individual Olympic gold medal.  Felix insisted after Friday's race her priority will be to do it in the 200, her favorite event, in which she has been second twice at the Olympics.

Yet her chances may be better in the 400.

Now 25, Felix has not improved her 200 time since 2007, and she has not broken 22 seconds since 2009.  In the 400, where she had much more upside, Felix dropped her previous personal best of 49.70, set in 2007, to 49.59 in the photo-finish loss to Botswana's Amantle Montsho in Monday's final.

At 400, Montsho and Felix were in a class by themselves.  At 200, the formidable Campbell-Brown now has added a world title to her two Olympic titles; Jeter is fast improving at a distance she had run just three times the two previous seasons; and fourth finisher Shalonda Solomon, an old prep rival of Felix, is becoming a threat.

Felix still has relays to run in Daegu, and she still could come home as the most decorated U.S. athlete.

But she wanted a different color scheme.

Twitter @olyphil

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