Allyson Felix barely made it to the Olympics in the 100-meter race after a tie with Jeneba Tarmoh in the Olympic trials that was nearly settled by a coin flip. On Wednesday, Felix won gold in the 200.
LONDON — No more heartbreak for Allyson Felix. No more silver, either.
Denied twice on the world’s biggest stage, Felix won the Olympic gold medal she’s been yearning for, taking the 200 meters Wednesday night to fill the last, and biggest, hole in her otherwise stellar resume.
Felix won the race in 21.88 seconds, topping Jamaica’s Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, who won the 100 four nights earlier, by .21 seconds. American Carmelita Jeter added bronze to go with her silver in the 100 meters.
“I think it was all for a reason,” Felix said. “It kept me motivated and it made this moment very special. It was a big weight being lifted.”
She won easily, leaving nothing to chance — or a coin flip that caused such a flap at Olympic trials — as she hugged the line around the curve, then burst ahead of Fraser-Pryce with 40 meters to go.
Finishing fourth was Jamaica’s Veronica Campbell-Brown, who defeated Felix in the Athens and Beijing Games and was trying to become the first woman to win the same individual track and field event in three consecutive Olympics.
Instead, the Americans were the ones celebrating three straight, their own 15 minutes of fame: Felix, followed quickly by Aries Merritt in the 110 hurdles and Brittney Reese in the long jump.
“We are always aware of what the medal count is,” said Jason Richardson, who finished second to Merritt in the hurdles as part of a seven-medal day at the track for the United States. “I know track and field can … let the world know the Americans are the best track and field country.”
Reese, a two-time world champion, became only the second American woman to win the long jump at the Olympics, leaping 23 feet, 4½ inches (7.12 meters) on her second attempt. Jackie Joyner-Kersee gave the U.S. its other gold in 1988.
Janay Deloach added a bronze and now the Americans head into the last four days of the Olympics with 20 medals at the track — 10 away from fulfilling their “Project 30” aspirations for the London Games.
Felix certainly did her part.
“She’s been trying very hard for this moment,” said Jeter, who became the first U.S. woman to medal in both sprints since Florence Griffith-Joyner in 1988. “When I gave her a hug, that’s exactly what I told her: ‘You’ve waited for this moment.’”
In 2011, Felix and her coach, Bobby Kersee — Joyner-Kersee’s husband — harbored visions of an Olympic double in the 200 and 400 meters. That turned out to be misguided, and at the world championships, Felix settled for silver in the 400 and an uncharacteristic bronze in the 200.
So they decided on a different double — the 100 and 200 — and it wound up causing them an unexpected dose of trouble.
It was the third-place tie in 100-meter qualifying at U.S. trials earlier this summer that hovered over Felix’s run-up to these Olympics — forcing her to defend herself off the track for the first time in an otherwise-pristine career.
Her tie with Jeneba Tarmoh for the third and final spot in the 100 forced USA Track and Field officials to scramble for a solution. One possibility was a coin flip; instead, they settled on a run-off. But Tarmoh begged off. Felix, admittedly not a serious medal contender for the 100, had to defend her decision not to give up the spot, and she went on to finish fifth.
The three heats in the Olympic 100, she said, were the perfect tuneup for the race she really wanted to win.
“Everyone just expected me to give up this spot, because I think lots of people … know me and they know that I’m seen as this very nice girl,” Felix said with a chuckle a few days before the start of track and field in London. “But it’s not just about me.”
On this night, though, it was.
Twice before, Felix came into the Olympics on even footing, or even a slight favorite, against Campbell-Brown. Both times, the American ended up disappointed — and the last time in Beijing, choking back tears, she called it “deja vu, and not in a good way.”
This time, there would be no regrets, and nobody can say Felix didn’t earn it.
Also in the race were the Olympic champions at 100 (Fraser-Pryce) and 400 (Sanya Richards-Ross), the two-time defending Olympic champion at 200 (Campbell-Brown) and the reigning world champion at 100 meters (Jeter).
“I don’t think you could ever put eight ladies like that again in a race,” Fraser-Pryce said. “I would never run.”
Had this race been only 140 meters, Fraser-Pryce would have another gold. But Felix has another gear in the 200, and she quickly made up her deficit and then pulled away. When she crossed the line, her reaction was calm. A big smile. Arms raised. Not much else.
“Bobby told me just to go out and get it,” Felix said. “I knew if I ran my race, it would come together.”
Felix adds this gold to the two individual silvers and one 4x400 relay gold from the 2008 Olympics.
She is, according to USATF, the most decorated woman in 200-meter history. At 26, she now has seven Olympic and world championship medals at the distance — four of them gold.
Maybe just as importantly, she’s the athlete who has consistently stood out as a smiling, trustworthy exception in a sport that has nearly buried itself under the weight of doping scandals and performances that seem too good to be true.
Richards-Ross, who finished fifth, said Felix “definitely deserves this moment. … She’s wanted this for a very long time.”
With the victory, Felix put at least a brief stop to Jamaica’s relentlessness in Olympic sprints. Before she won, Jamaica had won seven of the last eight Olympic sprints, including relays.
Eaton leads after 3 decathlon events
LONDON — Ashton Eaton is more concerned with getting an Olympic medal in the decathlon than breaking his world record. But how about both?
The 24-year-old American broke Bill Toomey’s 44-year-old record in the 100-meter dash and built a 105-point lead over teammate and world champion Trey Hardee after the opening three events Wednesday.
He was just 57 points shy of the pace when he broke Roman Sebrle’s 11-year-old world record with 9,039 points at the U.S. trials in June.
Eaton started by running the 100 in 10.35 seconds, just 0.14 off his time at the trials but beating Toomey’s 10.41 at Mexico City in 1968.
He followed that up with the top performance in the long jump and was 11th in the shot put.
There were two more events — high jump and 400 meters — to round out the first day.
“I feel good. My body feels good,” Eaton said. “Nothing special, but they were all solid, which is what it takes to be good in the decathlon.”
It helps, too, that the last two gold medalists are out.
Defending champion Bryan Clay failed to make the U.S. team, and Sebrle, who won in Athens eight years ago, dropped out after the 100 because of a right heel injury. It was hardly the ending the 37-year-old Sebrle envisioned for his last Olympics.
“My imagination of saying goodbye to the Olympics was another way,” Sebrle said.
Still, he pronounced himself satisfied with a storied career in which he held the world record for more than a decade.
And satisfied that the sport is left in capable hands with competitors such as Eaton. Sebrle was impressed with Eaton’s performance at the trials, even more so because much of the competition was in a steady rain.
“He’s amazing,” Sebrle said. “It’s unbelievable. I think he will make more points than 9,039. But not today. Not at the Olympics.”
Eaton, of Eugene, Ore., conceded as much in the build-up to London. He wasn’t interested in breaking his mark anyway, just earning a spot on the podium.
However, the Olympic mark is definitely within reach. Sebrle owns that record, 8,893 points in Athens.
Eaton’s toughest competition may be from Hardee, who’s coming off reconstructive surgery last September to repair a ligament he blew out while throwing the javelin at the World Championships last summer. The injury happened on his final throw, a personal best that locked up his second straight world decathlon title.
The Americans are looking for their first 1-2 finish in the decathlon since Milton Gray Campbell and Rafer Johnson in 1956.
“It doesn’t mean anything now, just like it doesn’t mean anything after the first event,” said Hardee, who’s from Austin, Texas. “It’s all about leading into that 10th event and what it looks like when you cross the line. We’re not trying to get ahead of ourselves.”
Bolt to 200 finals in bid for 2nd straight gold
LONDON — Usain Bolt slowed coming around the bend, looked to his left and saw his lead shrinking.
So the Jamaican turned the speed back up a notch for a few strides, enough to ensure he would win his semifinal heat in 20.18 seconds Wednesday night, moving closer to becoming the first man with two Olympic golds in the 200 meters.
The man two lanes over who was gaining on Bolt, Anaso Jobodwana of South Africa, finished in 20.27 to reach today’s final, too.
Bolt already successfully defended his 100 title from the Beijing Olympics on Sunday, joining American Carl Lewis as the only men with two golds in a row in the dash.
Now he’s got his sights set on another repeat.
“There’s a lot of people there who have come to spoil the party, so we’ll see,” Bolt said.
Four years ago in Beijing, he went 3 for 3, winning the 100, 200 and 4x100 relay, all in world-record time. He went on to break his marks in the two individual races at the 2009 world championships — marks that still stand, 9.58 in the 100 and 19.19 in the 200.
Asked about the chances of a world record in Thursday night’s 200 final, Bolt replied: “There’s a possibility, definitely. I can’t say (for sure), but the track is fast. It’s going to be a good race.”
The field will include Bolt’s teammate and training partner, 100 silver medalist Yohan Blake, who barely won the first semifinal heat in 20.01 seconds.
Blake — given the nickname “The Beast” by his pal Bolt because of the intensity of his practices — really toned down his speed, nearly too much, and had to outlean Wallace Spearmon of the U.S., who was 0.01 back in second place, and Christophe Lemaitre of France, who was another 0.01 back in third.
“You know the nature of ‘The Beast,’” Blake said. “I find myself out in front, and I just cruised from there.”
Churandy Martina of the Netherlands, Warren Weir of Jamaica and Alex Quinonez of Ecuador also advanced.
At the last Olympics, Martina and Spearmon finished second and third to Bolt in the 200 but didn’t head home with medals to show for it. They were disqualified for running out of their lanes.
Asked Wednesday if Bolt and Blake, the world champion in the 100, are beatable, Spearmon said: “Yeah, man. That’s why we are racing. If they weren’t beatable, they would just hand them medals, and we’d race for third.”