Felix given time to go for Olympic double

Sprinter Allyson Felix poses for a portrait at the USOC Rio Olympics Shoot at Quixote Studios on Nov 19, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.
Sprinter Allyson Felix poses for a portrait at the USOC Rio Olympics Shoot at Quixote Studios on Nov 19, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK • American sprinter Allyson Felix will get a rare chance to win gold in both the 200m and 400m races after athletics' world governing body changed the Rio Olympics competition schedule.

"I am excited for the opportunity to attempt this incredibly difficult feat," she said on her Twitter account. "The schedule was just the first step. The next step is to make the US Olympic team."

The change, made by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) and accepted by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Rio organisers, gives her more time between her opening round of the 200m and the final of the 400m, making the double plausible.

The Olympic 200m gold medallist and world 400m champion will now have more than 13 hours between the races, instead of the 75 minutes allowed under the original schedule.

"I am excited," Felix's coach Bob Kersee said. "She has wanted to do this double and the schedule change gives her a better opportunity to win more medals for the United States."

Felix had sought the change in hopes of becoming only the third woman to win both events in the same Olympics.

American Valerie Brisco-Hooks claimed the honour at the 1984 Los Angeles Games and France's Marie-Jose Perec won both at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, joining men's Atlanta double winner Michael Johnson.

Kersee had pushed hard for the change, frequently saying that 200m-400m runners should be given the same chance that 100m-200m sprinters have in the Olympics.

USA Track & Field had made the request last month and on Saturday said the change will help elevate the visibility of the sport as a whole on the Olympic stage.

IOC president Thomas Bach was not immediately available for comment but appeared to favour the change when asked at last year's World Championships.

"The Olympic programme has been defined in principle," he had said. "But, if we have a special case where we can help an athlete, we should be ready to discuss it."

The women's 200m competition was already shaping up to be one of the highlights of the Rio Olympics, with Felix, Dutch world champion Dafne Schippers and Jamaican Olympic silver medallist Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce expected in the field.

Now Felix's bid for the double will add more excitement.

The change moves the first round of the women's 200m from the evening of Aug 15 to the morning.

Her first 200m race is now set for 9.30am with the 400m final remaining at 10.45pm, according to the IAAF website.

Felix, 30, has tried the 200m-400m double once on the global scene, finishing second in the 400m and third in the 200m at the 2011 World Championships.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 18, 2016, with the headline 'Felix given time to go for Olympic double'. Print Edition | Subscribe