Thursday August 9, 2012

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.

One more spot back 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 str aight, their own 15 minutes of fame: Felix, followed by Aries Merritt in the 110 hurdles and Brittney Reese in the long jump.

"Track and field is the best sport for Americans," 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. "We are always aware of what the medal count is. I know track and field can close that, let the world know the Americans are the best track and field country."

Felix won easily, leaving nothing to chance as she burst ahead of Fraser-Pryce with 40 meters to go.

It was the third-place tie in 100-meter qualifying at U.S.


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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 her 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, never 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.

On a calm, cloudless evening in London, Felix broke out of Lane 7, hugged the line on the curve and found herself slightly behind Fraser-Pryce as they rounded into the straightaway with about 60 meters to go. That, however, is when Felix -- not the 100-meter champion -- kicked it into another gear, drawing even and then pulling away.

She adds this gold to the two individual silvers and one 4x400 relay gold from the 2008 Olympics. She's a six-time national champion at 200, a three-time world champion and -- in a sport that has nearly buried itself in the United States under the weight of doping scandals and performances that seem too good to be true -- she's the athlete who has consistently stood out as a smiling, trustworthy exception.

She put at least a brief stop to Jamaica's relentlessness in these Olympic sprints. Before the Felix victory, Jamaica had won seven of the last eight Olympic sprints, including relays.