EUGENE, Ore. — When Allyson Felix folds her long legs into the starting blocks in the first round of the 100 meters at the United States Olympic track and field trials Friday, she will feel a little more at home than usual.
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Felix, a two-time world champion in the 200 meters, has been working out with the same model starting block used here at Oregon’s Hayward Field. “I’ve been working on the start, been working on executing the race,” Felix said. “I know I can do it. I’m just trying to put the right race together in the final. Hopefully, it will work out for me.”
At 22, Felix is trying to become her sport’s dominant multi-event athlete. By the time the team is chosen after eight days of competition, Felix hopes to have qualified for the 100, the 200 and the 4×100 and 4×400 relays.
The 100 will be Felix’s toughest event — she won gold medals in the other three events at last year’s world championships — and she has concentrated on the 200 for most of her career. She was the silver medalist in the 2004 Olympics and has won the last two world championships in that event.
“I’ve always loved the 100,” Felix said. “I love speed. I’ve not always been that great at it, but I’ve always been willing to work hard at it.
“I think it is like icing on the cake. It’s a challenging race for me. If I have success in it, it would be amazing. But it’s not my ultimate and first priority, which is definitely the 200.”
The 100 final is Saturday. The 200 will not be run until next week.
To qualify for the team in the 100, Felix will have to finish in the top three of a field that the coaches have estimated has 8 to 10 runners capable of winning. The field is led by Lauryn Williams, the silver medalist in the 2004 Olympics and the 2005 world champion, who lost the world title last year to Veronica Campbell of Jamaica in a photo finish.
But of the four American runners who have broken 11 seconds in the 100 this year, Williams is not one of them. Felix has the top time in the United States this year (10.93), followed by Marshavet Hooker, Torri Edwards and Muna Lee.
“It’s anybody’s game,” Williams said. “I just hope I can get there and do what I’ve always done, work the kinks out through the rounds and when that gun goes off, explode out of the blocks. The final is on Saturday night. If you run it again on Sunday, you might have a different three people.”
The contrast between Williams and Felix in the starting blocks of the 100 is significant. Williams is short (5 feet 2 inches) with strong, powerful legs, and Felix is a lithe 5-6 and runs with long, smooth strides.
At the beginning of the season, Felix and her coach, Bobby Kersee, discussed her prospects of running four events at the Olympics — a daunting task because runners must advance through three preliminary rounds before the finals of both the 100 and 200. In the relays, the top runners often run only the final round.
“No doubt it’s tough,” Felix said. “At the beginning of the year we looked at it and really gave it a realistic look and thought, ‘Is this really possible?’ Bobby said that he could get me ready, and if he thinks he can get me ready, I can completely depend on that. If it works out, it’s amazing. For me, it would be thrilling.”
Felix is trying to make a splash akin to what Marion Jones accomplished in 2000, when she was trying for five gold medals (in addition to the sprints, Jones was also a long jumper). But Jones’s quest was also dogged by rumors of performance-enhancing drug use, which was her downfall. She is currently serving a six-month sentence for perjury for lying to federal officials investigating Balco.
The current crop of sprinters, including Felix, have proclaimed themselves the new clean generation and want to persuade fans that the era of Jones and other drug users is long past.
“I think anyone going for four golds, competing in so many rounds, would definitely be a testament to what kind of athlete she is,” Williams said of Felix. “It would definitely create a new buzz, maybe take away from what happened in 2000 when someone else was going for five.
“It’s a really great opportunity. You don’t get to see many athletes capable of doing those things.”