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The queen of England?

Still searching for that first individual Olympic gold medal in the 200 meters, Felix is planning to add the 400 next year

August 24, 2011|Philip Hersh

It figured that Allyson Felix's apartment in Playa Vista would reflect her personality.

Soft blues and earthy browns. A spare sense in the furnishings. Everything perfectly in its place except Chloe, her 4-year-old Yorkshire terrier, who drew a mild rebuke from Felix for investigating a visitor.

A kitchen she keeps so neat and clean it was hard to believe that it's ever used.

"I cook here,"Felix insisted, between bites of the salad and turkey sandwich her brother, Wes, had brought for her lunch. She rattled off a list of her specialties. "Red enchiladas. Lightly breaded catfish. Steak. Chicken. Cinnamon rolls. German dirt cake.

"I've got to make sure I'm keeping weight on."

Felix needs the strength a dozen extra pounds of lean mass have added, making her a size 2 instead of a 0, if she is to bear up under what is being asked of her, under what she is asking of herself. "She is a little teeny mouse among the elephants,"said Brittany Ricketts Dixon, her high school track teammate.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Friday, August 26, 2011 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 News Desk 1 inches; 28 words Type of Material: Correction
Track and field: An article in the Aug. 24 Sports section about track athlete Allyson Felix misspelled the last name of former Olympic runner Valerie Brisco-Hooks as Brisco-Hicks.

Yet the 5-foot-6, 125-pound Felix is the one with the burden of lifting a sport staggered by the weight of its own doping problems, the track athlete whom NBC has chosen as a poster woman for the 2012 Olympics.

She runs with the weight of expectations that have accompanied her since she made indoor and outdoor world championship teams at age 17 and won an Olympic silver medal in the 200 meters a year later.

And, beginning Saturday at the World Track and Field Championships in Daegu, South Korea, she will take on the added burden of a rare and demanding double, trying to become the first woman to win -- or even win medals in -- the 200 and 400 meters at worlds, as well as run both relays.

The challenge seems even more daunting in a season when Felix has proved more vulnerable at both distances.

"She is still a kid," said her coach, Bob Kersee, explaining Felix needs more time to master the 400.

"I feel old,"Felix said.

She is 25, in her ninth season of competing against the best in the world. She has won an unprecedented three consecutive outdoor world titles in the 200, but, frustratingly, silver medals in the race at the 2004 and 2008 Summer Olympics. Without an individual Olympic gold medal while running one event (she was part of the gold-medal 1600-meter relay team in Beijing), she may boldly try for two next year in London.

"It is time for me to step out of my comfort zone,"Felix said.

For Felix, a little discomfort on the track is what will have to do as attention-getting outrageousness. There will be no nine-inch fingernails, trash-talking opponents or posing for men's magazines. She may have a high six-figure Nike contract, drive a Mercedes sedan and look like a model at awards galas, but her flash comes mainly from her charismatic smile and how quickly she gets from one point to another.

"She is humble, gregarious, gracious," Kersee said. "When you get to know Allyson, you would want her to baby-sit your children."

She is also the one who dropped everything a month before the 2008 Olympics and made a wearying 72-hour round trip from Europe to Los Angeles to be maid of honor in Dixon's wedding. Felix had to leave before the reception to fly back for her next race.

"That meant so much to me," Dixon said.

Loyalty. Trustworthiness. Consistent high achievement. And a religious faith that underpins everything she does.

So you might think Allyson Felix is too good to be true. If you ever have thought about her at all, that is. Such is the diminished state of track and field in the United States that its stars are largely unnoticed.


Allyson Felix still was looking for a comfort zone when she came to a track tryout her freshman year at Los Angeles Baptist High. Her family had just returned to California after three years in Denver, and her adjustment to the private school wasn't easy.

Felix had legs thin as stilts and was wearing basketball sneakers when she ran 60 yards so fast L.A. Baptist Coach Jonathan Patton didn't believe his watch. She ran again, and the result was the same.

"What's your name?" Patton asked her.

It also was Felix's introduction to track. She would qualify for the state meet as a freshman and win her first of five state titles in the sprints as a sophomore.

"She had assurance that comes from abiding by a higher code,"Patton said.

Her father is a minister and professor who recently added a doctorate in theology to his three master's degrees. Her mother is a third-grade teacher. Wes, now her manager, graduated from USC. Their home in Santa Clarita was a place where faith and respect reigned.

"I was a disruptive child," she said, impishly.

Whoa: tabloid stuff? Not exactly. She did nothing more than show a little sass and vinegar and get what she calls "slap-happy."


Just before Felix ran her first outdoor worlds in 2003, she decided to turn pro rather than take a track scholarship at USC, where she nevertheless enrolled. Adidas, her first equipment sponsor, paid the tuition.

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