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A supremely talented sprinter who has been competing at the highest level since she was 18, Allyson Felix had to wait until London 2012 before finally becoming an individual Olympic champion, outclassing her rivals to win gold in the 200m. A mainstay of the US women’s 4x100m and 4x400m relay teams, she now has more world championship and Olympic titles than any other female track athlete.
A Californian junior high school student who showed a gift for athletics at a very early age, Felix was only 15 when she won her first international title, taking gold in the 100m at the 2001 World Youth Championships in Debrecen (HUN). However, it was in the 200m and 400m that she would compile one of the finest CVs in women’s sprinting, winning three consecutive world 200m titles at Helsinki 2005 – where, aged 19, she became the youngest ever sprinter to win gold – Osaka 2007 and Berlin 2009, as well as a 400m title in Beijing in 2015. The remaining five of her eight world titles to date have come in the 4x100m and 4x400m relays, while at the 2011 Worlds in Daegu (KOR), Felix collected medals in every event she competed in: bronze in the 200m, silver in the 400m, and gold in the 4x100m and 4x400m relays. That makes her the only athlete in world championship history to finish on the podium in every individual and relay sprint event. She is also the most successful female track athlete in the history of the IAAF World Championships and the Olympic Games
Dominant in the Worlds, Felix suffered bitter disappointment in the Olympic 200m final at Athens 2004 and then again at Beijing 2008, losing both times to Jamaica’s Veronica Campbell-Brown. At the end of each race, the American broke down down in tears, but as she later explained, they were tears that would eventually drive her on to success. “The moments that motivated me the most were losing on the biggest stage, just never forgetting that feeling,” said the American sprint queen at London 2012. “I embrace the defeats because that’s what pushed me all those years.”
It was at London’s Olympic Stadium on 8 August 2012 that Allyson Felix brought an end to her long quest for an individual gold. After flying out of the blocks, she emerged from the turn in the lead and pulled away from Jamaica’s Shelly-Ann Fraser-Price and fellow American Carmelita Jeter to win in a time of 21.88. Buoyed by this maiden success, she went out and won a second gold two days later, this time in the 4x100m relay, putting in a searing leg down the far straight to help the USA team set a new world record of 40.82. Felix made it a golden hat-trick the following day, running the second leg in the USA’s 4x400m relay final triumph to become the most successful female athlete at the London Games.
During the 2013 Worlds in Moscow, Felix suffered a thigh injury ahead of the final of the 200m, meaning that she left Russia without a medal. Two years later, in Beijing’s ‘Bird’s Nest’ Stadium, she made up for that disappointment as she reigned supreme in the final of the 400m, clocking 49.26 to finish ahead of Bahamian Shaunae Miller and Jamaica’s Shericka Jackson. She also bagged two relay silvers as the US quartet finished second in the 4x100m and 4x400m finals to take her overall medal tally at the world championships to 13.
Felix’s fourth Olympic Games saw her denied gold in the 400m final by a mere seven hundredths of a second, as she was pipped to the line by Shaunae Miller. Ahead at the last bend, the Bahamian had to hold off a surge from Felix in the straight, diving into the finish line to claim first place. Several days later a fluffed baton exchange between Felix and her teammate English Gardner during the 4x100m heats saw the US quartet initially disqualified, but they were subsequently reinstated after it was determined that they had been disrupted by one of the Brazilian team. As a result they were given the opportunity to re-run their heat alone, and duly registered the fastest time of the heats. Felix, Gardner, Tianna Bartoletta and Tori Bowie then went on to win the final in a time of 41.01, ahead of Jamaica and Great Britain. The following day, she was back on top of the podium as the US quartet took gold in the 4x400m, with Felix running the anchor leg to help clock a winning time of 3:19.06, with Jamaica and Great Britain again finishing second and third respectively. It was the sixth consecutive victory for the US women in this event, and the third for Felix.
Her individual silver and two relay golds in Rio took Felix to a total of nine Olympic medals, on a par with Jamaican legend Merlene Ottey. However, Ottey’s collection didn’t include a gold, while Felix has no less than six, making her the most successful female track athlete in Olympic history. Indeed, only three men – Finland’s Paavo Nurmi, the USA’s Carl Lewis and Jamaica’s Usain Bolt – can boast better medal hauls at the Games. And her hunger remains undiminished. «I’m a natural competitor, » she says. « It doesn’t matter what it is. I want to win. »