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TRACK AND FIELD

Allyson Felix wins 200 meters at world championships

It's the third consecutive title in the event for the USC graduate.

August 22, 2009|Philip Hersh

BERLIN — At age 23, Allyson Felix achieved the unprecedented Friday night.

She became the first woman to win three gold medals in a sprint event at the world track championships.

But Felix would rather have the one gold medal that is missing during the four years it has taken her to win three consecutive 200-meter titles at the biennial world championships.

"I would love to trade my three world championships for your gold," Felix said to Veronica Campbell-Brown of Jamaica at the medalists' news conference.

That is the 2008 Olympic gold medal in the 200, a race Felix, from Valencia, was heavily favored to win. She was distressed over finishing second to Campbell-Brown when it happened in Beijing and still obsessed about it a year later.

"I don't think I ever want to get over it," Felix said. "I never want to be satisfied with losing."

On a night when the air chilled after torrential rain delayed the meet 40 minutes, Felix won in 22.02 seconds, well off the personal best of 21.81 she recorded in the 2007 final. The slower time was plenty to beat Campbell-Brown (22.35) by three meters, with Debbie Ferguson-McKenzie of the Bahamas third in 22.41.

And this time, Felix could find extra satisfaction in being the first U.S. runner to take a gold medal from Jamaica in the 100 or 200 meters in eight races at these worlds and the 2008 Olympics. "I don't think this will make them too worried," Felix said of the Jamaicans.

For the second straight year, the Jamaican men won't have to worry about the United States in the 4x100 relay because Team USA had yet another bad baton exchange in the heats.

This one did not come to light until Britain surprisingly filed a protest, even though its team had qualified for today's final by finishing second to the U.S. in the same heat.

The U.S. men now have botched a 4x100 relay exchange in the preliminaries six times in 16 global outdoor championships beginning with the 1988 Olympics.

Darvis Patton has been involved in the last two.

On Friday, Patton, the anchor, violated relay rules by touching the baton before Shawn Crawford got it into the passing zone. At the 2008 Olympics, anchor Tyson Gay had dropped the pass from Patton.

"Our men's 4x100 relay had great preparation for this meet, including practicing at relay camp and competing with this exact lineup [two weeks ago], when they ran a world-leading time," said Benita Fitzgerald Mosley, USA Track and Field chief of sports performance.

The United States did take a 6-5 lead over Jamaica in the gold-medal race in this year's championship, thanks to Felix and LaShawn Merritt, also just 23, who won the 400 meters Friday.

Merritt's victory in 44.06 seconds was noteworthy because it gave him four straight wins over silver medalist Jeremy Wariner (44.60) in major events: 2009 worlds, and the 2008 Olympics, U.S. Olympic Trials and Grand Prix Final.

"I was second at [the 2007 worlds], and I didn't want another silver," Merritt said.

Wariner had utterly dominated the 400-meter race from 2004 through 2007, winning the Olympics and two world titles. "This is real difficult [after] being on top for a while and running 43s like they were nothing," Wariner said.

Wariner has paid the price for splitting last year with his longtime coach, Clyde Hart, in a dispute over money. The runner swallowed his pride and began working with Hart again in May.

"It's not a case of Jeremy needing to get better than he has ever been but just to get back to where he was," Hart said after the race.

Felix, who competed in her first worlds six years ago at age 17, had reached a new level in the 2007 event with two brilliant legs on winning U.S. relays as well as a title in the 200. She can get there again with wins in the relays this weekend.

That may even temper her failure to win the Olympic gold medal.

"I'm just grateful to have had success quickly, and sometimes I do have to pinch myself and realize all this has happened in not that much time," Felix said.

A great sprinter has to get places in a hurry.

--

phersh@tribune.com

twitter.com/olyphil

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