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Local Olympians: At last, gold for Allyson Felix

Posted: August 8, 2012 11:49 a.m.
Updated: August 8, 2012 11:49 a.m.

United States runner and Santa Clarita resident Allyson Felix, second from right, crosses the finish line to win gold in the women's 200-meter final on Wednesday in London.

 

LONDON (AP)  Third time was a charm for Santa Clarita resident Allyson Felix.

After settling for a silver medal in each of the past two Olympic Games in the 200-meter, Felix was first to cross the finish line this time around, winning her first individual Olympic gold on Wednesday in Olympic Stadium.

Felix did win one other gold as part of the winning 4x400-meter relay team in 2008.

With two golds and two silvers total, the 26-year-old now becomes the most decorated homegrown Santa Clarita Valley Olympian of all time, passing Canyon graduate Crystl Bustos' mark of three medals (two golds and a silver in softball).

Felix has a chance to add to that mark when she takes part in the U.S. 4x100 relay team beginning Thursday.

In Wednesday's race, Felix won in 21.88 seconds, topping Jamaica’s Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, who won the 100 four nights earlier, by .21 seconds. American Carmelita Jeter added bronze to go with her silver in the 100 meters.

One more spot back was Jamaica’s Veronica Campbell-Brown, who defeated Felix in the Athens and Beijing Games in 2004 and 2008, respectively, and was trying to become the first woman to win the same individual track and field event in three consecutive Olympics.

“I mean, finally. It’s been a long time coming,” Felix said, reflecting on two losses to Veronica Campbell-Brown. “To twice lose to the same person, it’s been tough. But it’s all paying off.”

Felix won easily, leaving nothing to chance — or a coin flip — as she burst ahead of Fraser-Pryce with 40 meters to go.

It was the third-place tie in 100-meter qualifying at U.S. trials earlier this summer that hovered over Felix’s run-up to these Olympics — forcing her to defend herself off the track for the first time in an otherwise-pristine career.

Her tie with Jeneba Tarmoh for the third and final spot in the 100 forced USA Track and Field officials to scramble for a solution. One possibility was a coin flip; instead, they settled on a run-off. But Tarmoh begged off. Felix, never a serious medal contender for the 100, had to defend her decision not to give up the spot, and she went on to finish fifth.

The three heats in the Olympic 100, she said, were the perfect tuneup for the race she really wanted to win.

“Everyone just expected me to give up this spot, because I think lots of people ... know me and they know that I’m seen as this very nice girl,” Felix said with a chuckle a few days before the start of track and field in London. “But it’s not just about me.”

On this night, though, it was.

Twice before, Felix came into the Olympics on even footing, or even a slight favorite, against Campbell-Brown. Both times, the American ended up disappointed — and the last time in Beijing, choking back tears, she called it “deja vu, and not in a good way.”

This time, there would be no regrets.

On a calm, cloudless evening in London, Felix broke out of Lane 7, hugged the line on the curve and found herself slightly behind Fraser-Pryce as they rounded into the straightaway with about 60 meters to go. That, however, is when Felix — not the 100-meter champion — kicked it into another gear, drawing even and then pulling away.

In addition to her previous Olympic medals, she’s a six-time national champion at 200, a three-time world champion and — in a sport that has nearly buried itself in the United States under the weight of doping scandals and performances that seem too good to be true — she’s the athlete who has consistently stood out as a smiling, trustworthy exception.

She put at least a brief stop to Jamaica’s relentlessness in these Olympic sprints. Before the Felix victory, Jamaica had won seven of the last eight Olympic sprints, including relays.

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