Scheduling change allows Felix to go for double in Rio
Jan. 17, 2016
It won't be the first time Allyson Felix will like what the clock says at the Olympics.
America's top sprinter earned her first win of the 2016 Games on Saturday, when international track and field officials agreed to shift the schedule in Rio so Felix can try for gold in both the 200- and 400-meter races.
The IAAF moved the opening round of the women's 200 from evening to the day session Aug. 15. That would give Felix a chance to run the 200 heats — usually nothing more than a warmup for her — then have enough time to recover for the 400 final that evening. Even though the 200 heats are a breeze for Felix, it would have been virtually impossible for her to run both races the same night because of the fast turnaround between races.
"Being able to pursue the double has been a goal of Allyson's since she entered the sport," said her coach, Bobby Kersee. "Without the advocacy of USATF and the willingness of the IAAF to entertain the possibility, this could not have happened."
It's not unprecedented. In 1996, the IAAF shifted the schedule so American sprinter Michael Johnson could go for the 200-400 double. He won gold in both.
Felix has one gold and two silvers in the 200 meters at the Olympics, but her other three medals have all come in relays. At the last Olympics, she also ran in the 100, but finished fifth despite running a personal best.
Since 2012, she has focused more on the 400 as a second event. Last year, she won the 400 at the national and world championships, but couldn't try for the double because of the same scheduling issue.
Since then, USA Track and Field has worked with the IAAF to try to figure a way to alter the schedule so one of the world's best sprinters can be on the sport's biggest stage more than once. One possible factor: NBC is paying $1.23 billion to televise the Olympics, and this gives Felix, one of the most high-profile American athletes, a chance to win gold in prime time on two different nights.
The change is a bit of positive news for a sport that could use it. Over the past week, headlines have been filled with charges of rampant anti-doping corruption in Russia that has been aided by former IAAF President Lamine Diack and other top leaders.
"We worked closely with Allyson Felix and her team to advocate for this change, which will help elevate the visibility of the sport as a whole on the Olympic stage," USATF CEO Max Seigel said.