LONDON — Allyson Felix's running style is so elegant, it's easy for her to lapse into floating like a butterfly when she should sting like a bee. "It's a gift and a curse because it looks very fluid," she said. "It's nice, but sometimes you have to get into an aggressive mode."
It took the Los Angeles native until her third Olympics to develop that edge, an odyssey that included silver medals in the 200 meters at Athens and Beijing and a fifth-place finish in the 100 meters last week.
When it all clicked in her mind Wednesday, she hunted down her dream instead of gliding toward it and finally realized her golden vision.
Aggressive from the first step and every stride through 200 meters, Felix won her first individual Olympic gold medal in 21.88 heart-pounding seconds, lunging across the finish line ahead of two-time Olympic 100-meter champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce of Jamaica and London 100-meter silver medalist Carmelita Jeter of Gardena.
On the day U.S. track and field athletes won three of four events and seven of 12 possible medals -- the best single-day U.S. haul since a nine-medal spree in six events on Aug. 6, 1992 -- Felix's triumph was the longest in coming and, perhaps, the hardest won.
"I think the moments that motivated me most was losing on the biggest stage. We talked even today about going back to that," Felix said.
"At the time, I said I would trade all those world championship medals for the gold, and now I'm able to just say that I embrace that journey. I embrace the defeats because that's what has pushed me all these years and makes tonight very, very sweet."
Fraser-Pryce was timed in a personal-best 22.09 seconds, with Jeter, in Lane 9, powering her way to the finish in 22.14 seconds. Veronica Campbell-Brown, Felix's nemesis at Athens and Beijing, was fourth in 22.38 seconds. Sanya Richards-Ross of the U.S., who won gold in the 400, was fifth in 22.39 seconds.
Jeter became the first American woman to win medals in the 100 and 200 in the same Games since Florence Griffith-Joyner did it in 1988.
"I was just so happy and proud of myself to get back on that podium," Jeter said. "This is my first Olympic Games, and I'm so happy and blessed right now, and I'm very excited for Allyson to get her gold medal. It's been great."
Felix and Jeter had plenty of medal-winning company.
Aries Merritt won the 110-meter hurdles in a personal-best 12.92 seconds, beating out Los Angeles-based Jason Richardson, who was timed in 13.04 seconds. Long jumper Brittney Reese continued her domination with a gold-medal leap of 23 feet 41/2 inches, and Janay DeLoach won a bronze by 1 centimeter with a final leap of 22-71/4.
The only event not won by an American was the 400-meter hurdles, in which Russia's Natalya Antyukh set a personal best of 52.70 seconds to beat a season best of 52.77 by Lashinda Demus of Palmdale.
U.S. track and field athletes have won 20 medals, with the possibility of many more to come -- some in events that aren't traditional strongholds.
Team USA will have only one representative in the men's 200 final -- Wallace Spearmon's semifinal time of 20.02 was second only to Jamaican Yohan Blake's 20.01. But it will have 10,000-meter silver medalist Galen Rupp, Bernard Lagat and Lopez Lomong in the men's 5,000, the first time since 1932 that the U.S. will have three finalists in that event.
"They don't look at Africans or Ethiopians and Kenyans and everybody else and feel like those guys are supposed to be the ones winning, so whatever spots we can trade with other countries, that's ours," Lagat said of the recent success at middle and long distances. "No. They know now that we belong to the very top."
Two medals in the decathlon are a distinct possibility. World-record holder Ashton Eaton is the leader halfway through the competition with 4,661 points, and Trey Hardee is second at 4,441.
In addition, Alysia Johnson Montano of Canyon Country led three U.S. women into the semifinals of the 800, along with Alice Schmidt and Geena Gall. Although world 1,500-meter champion Jenny Simpson was eliminated here, Shannon Rowbury and Morgan Uceny moved into the semifinals.
Pole vaulter Derek Miles of Sacramento, a three-time Olympian and two-time U.S. champion, missed his three attempts at his opening height of 17-03/4, and Jeremy Scott's best height of 18-01/2 wasn't good enough for him to advance. Brad Walker cleared 18-41/2 on his first try and will be one of 12 vaulters in Friday's final.
But Wednesday belonged to Felix, who turned two painful Olympic losses into the biggest moment of her life. "I just think it hasn't completely sunk in yet," she said. "I just crossed the line and said thank you, Lord. It's been a long time coming."
BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX
Track and field
G Allyson Felix, United States, 21.88
S Shelley-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Jamaica, 22.09
B Carmelita Jeter, United States, 22.14
Women's 400m hurdles
G Natalya Antyukh, Russia, 52.70
S Lashinda Demus, United States, 52.77
B Zuzana Hejnova, Czech Republic, 53.38
Women's long jump
G Brittney Reese, United States, 7.12
S Elena Sokolova, Russia, 7.07
B Janay Deloach, United States, 6.89
Men's 110m hurdles
G Aries Merritt, United States, 12.92
S Jason Richardson, United States, 13.04
B Hansie Parchment, Jamaica, 13.12