Mon | Sep 24, 2018

Double dilemma for Felix

Published:Thursday | November 6, 2014 | 12:00 AM

In 2011, Allyson Felix earned respect for trying the 200m/400m double at the World Championships. She lost both events, but few athletes would even try such a double.

However, even with the slim American showing interest in the 400m again, don't expect a similar double at the 2015 World Championships. The schedule is just too tough.

In 2011, the heats, semis and final of the one-lap event were complete before the 200m began. There were two rest days before the 200m as well. In Beijing, the smog-stricken host city of next year's World Championships, the 200m and 400m will overlap.

On day six of the championships, Felix will have the 200m semis at 7:40 p.m. local time and the 400m final 70 minutes later at 8:50 p.m.

Two decades ago, Michael Johnson fought to get the events separated so he could try the 200m/400m double. He succeeded and did the double at the 1995 Worlds and the 1996 Olympics. Marie-Jose Perec, the French gazelle from Guadeloupe, mirrored Johnson's double triumph in 1996.

Felix will have no such comfort. As things stand, she will race on day three, four, five, twice in 70 minutes on day six and on day seven, if she does the double in Beijing. Barring an amendment to the schedule, such an endeavour isn't likely.

I'd be astonished but happy if she chose to run the 400m only. She ran a personal best of 49.59 seconds when she lost narrowly to Botswana's Amantle Montsho in 2011 and she has enormous potential in the event. Yet, that would mean leaving out the 200m, where she is Olympic Champion and three-time World Champion.

The results of the last two World 200m finals make that impossible to contemplate. In 2011, she lost to Veronica Campbell-Brown and last year, she succumbed to injury in a final won by Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce. So the 200m stays.

If she really has a sense of adventure, she could run the 100m and the 200m. The schedule facilitates that double nicely. The 100m is on days two and three and the 200m starts on day five. She's no slouch in the 100m either as proved by her fifth-place finish in the London Olympics.


From a Jamaican perspective, it's probably better if she runs the 100m. Fraser-Pryce, Veronica Campbell-Brown and an in-form Kerron Stewart would probably expect to beat her in the straight sprint. Our 400m forces won't be quite so confident. Except for the retired pair of Lorraine Fenton and Grace Jackson, the only Jamaican with faster 400-metre times than Felix is Shericka Williams. Shericka ran 49.51 and 49.32 seconds at the 2009 World Championships.

The smart money is on the American seeking to regain the title in the 200m. In the hope of more favourable scheduling at the 2016 Olympics, she can explore the 400m on the Diamond League circuit.

At 10.89 and 21.69, Felix is as fast in the sprints as the holder of the 400m world record, Marita Koch who sprinted to personal best times of 10.83 and 21.71 seconds. It's a long shot, but if she commits to the event, Felix might be the best challenger to Koch's almost eternal record of 47.60 seconds. Set in 1985, it's a target worth the chase.

Hubert Lawrence has scrutinised athletics since 1980.