Allyson Felix is honing in on her quest for a rare shot at gold in both the 200 and 400 metres at the Rio Olympics, tailoring her training to simulate the stress of her bid and leaning some who have achieved the feat.
A four-time Olympic champion and nine-time world champion in the sprints, Felix is seeking to become only the fourth athlete to sweep the distances at an Olympics.
Felix, in New York to compete in the 60-yard dash indoors at the Armory in Saturday’s 109th Millrose Games, attempted the feat at the 2011 world championships where she finished second in the 400 metres and third in the 200 metres.
“It was a huge learning experience for me because it was my first time trying to do it,” Felix, 30, told Reuters on Thursday. “I learned that I needed more speed. When I came to the 200 I was feeling flat, and not like myself.”
Felix said her sprinting speed is her strength and she must have faith that her distance training would provide the endurance she needs in the 400 to match Valerie Brisco-Hooks (1984) and France’s Marie-Jose Perec (1996).
Michael Johnson became the first men’s 200-400 double winner at the 1996 Atlanta Games.
“Obviously, (her coach) Bobby (Kersee) has been my biggest wisdom in the area and Valerie, she’s someone who I’ll continue to talk to. She’s worked with us for years,” said Felix, whose coach Kersee worked with Brisco-Hooks at the LA Games.
“I have a great relationship with her. I’ve picked her brain a little bit, and I’m definitely going to continue to do that throughout the year.”
An Olympic schedule change has provided more time between the races in Rio this year but the reigning 200m champion said she needs to work on quick turnarounds for the Summer Games should she qualify to represent the U.S. in both distances.
“Training is going well. It’s intense and it’s heavy right now,” Felix said. “A lot of running with very short recovery and two races overlapping. Just being able to do that workload in practise and have that turnaround is the biggest difference.
“It’s about having intense days back-to-back. I think one of the biggest concerns is that there is a late night (400) semi-final, (followed by) an early morning 200 round and late night (400) final.
“So being able to kind of simulate that in practise that’s a big thing,” she said, adding that late night workouts were in the master plan.
Felix said an encounter with Johnson at last October’s Hall of Fame induction in the Armory further motivated her.
“He was just saying he wanted me to go for it and was interested as a fan of track and field to see the outcome,” beamed Felix. “Of course, he’s a huge inspiration.”