Friday, August 3, 2012

2012 Olympics: Allyson Felix Tries to Exceed Expectations

Allyson Felix sprints into Olympic Stadium with a glare in her eyes, and the body language of a serious competitor, the kind of vibes she brings to racing. It’s about her intensity and emotions, building a winning attitude, on a mission to smoke each sprinter in London and sell a million of Nike shoes, feature on the front cover of sports magazines and be immortalized on Kellogg’s cereal boxes.

The pressure is on as she can rise to stardom, already a rising star in these games, considering that she’s one of America’s fastest women in the world. When she finally arrived in London, after training hard in Los Angeles for the 2012 Summer Olympics, she could have run a marathon around Great Britain. The reigning three-time world 200m champion, Felix, enters as favorite with Veronica Campbell-Brown of Jamaica standing in her way to once again try and unhinge her pursuit of becoming the next beautiful American dream. These games feels like her moment to capture the world’s attention, her moment to shine, proudly wearing the red, white and blue of the United States, representing a nation where it has produced some of the top competitors to take on elite Olympians from all over the world.

Thus, she has twice finished second to Campbell-Brown in the 200-meter at the Games after qualifying in heats running onto the track with a goal on her mind. The two-time silver medalist insisted she is much-improved and can win multiple gold medals, as her goal of winning seems well within reach. She’s dreaming about earning her gold, not silver, which she won at the age of 18 at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. The weigh of expectations that she may not exceed, the notion of failure and incompleteness are what the naysayers are thinking about, not kind to give her the benefit of the doubt, although four years later makes a difference in one’s performance.

Even at 26, Felix has been mentioned in the same breath as Marion Jones and has the weight her on shoulders to try and surpass a former U.S. sprinter whose sensational performance in Sydney was later tainted because of performance-enhancing drugs. In contrast, Felix has never tested positive for banned substances, which means nobody has placed an asterisk next to her incredible mark. Not once in her Olympic career has she fallen from grace or into deep shame. The world will be looking on to watch Felix hopefully sprint her way into the finish for an elusive individual Olympic gold medal, when she is arguably the fastest U.S. sprinter in track and field nowadays, with another crack to post an exceptional time and have a personal best in the 200 for the first time since in five years. The notion of track and field is that competition is about the fastest, strongest, or toughest, and Felix might just be the fastest, strongest, or toughest woman in these games, a track star who is gifted to blow past every runner in both the 100 and 200.

If she strides in the 100 and solidifies her Olympic career, for the most part, she will be a megastar in the world of track and field. If not, she will have to live with the doubt and misery of failing to capture a gold medal. In the women’s sprints, with all the attention pointing in her direction and really no one else’s, Felix is the more talked-about athlete and is joined by Carmelita Jeter and Tianna Madison. You’ve seen Felix race down the track like a cheetah on the prowl, a burst of speed during the final seconds of her race. At top speed, she just keeps running, on the flat surfaces as thousands of spectators watch from the stands amaze by her incredible agility and swiftness, dashing to the finish with an unbelievable time. For years now, she’s been running, training hard to develop her craft and preparing specifically for these games.

For years, she has been doubted and disrespected as much as she’s finally gotten the credit where credit is due, including in these Olympics favorite to walk away with the bright hardware that she hopes to drape around her neck this time around, awestruck by her improvement and odds of beating the Jamaican girl and other sprinters. With Felix in the middle of the strangest controversy due to a mishandled runoff, in which she and Jeneba Tarmoh finished in a dead heat for the USA’s final spot in the 100 meters, she just missed qualifying for the 100, a race Jeter won as Madison crossed the line second. And when she was disgusted by her fourth-place finish at the U.S. Olympic track and field trials in Eugene, Ore., while a review of the race conceded that Felix and Tarmoh finished in a dead beat, Tarmoh withdrew from a runoff and Felix was given the spot in the Olympic 100.

It’s no coincidence that we are embracing her as a true heroine or either an American disillusionment, an iconic sprinter anticipated to have a few races of her lifetime, particularly after Tarmoh determined the final Olympic spot by barely beating Felix for third place before it was overturned. Heretofore, she really wasn’t even eligible to compete in her best event, a race that exposes her strength and rarely a weakness and a few other activities she takes on in the summer games. It seems more people like her chances, including disbelievers, which she can likely come away with the gold. It may just be her time to spice up the games for the American folks watching from coast to coast, from state to state, from city to city, from living room to living room, from TV set to TV set.

We tend to fall in love with our superstars in America, and when it involves mano-a-mano competition that comprise of U.S. athletes, then viewers are willing to pay close attention. Felix, win or lose, does give us a show, sprinting as fast as she can, not to only awe spectators but chase her dream of standing tall on the podium with Olympic gold around her neck. This time, it was Felix who won her heat easily on Friday in a time of 11.01 seconds, advancing to Saturday’s semifinals and angling for well-respected, a most precious prize of representing a country as an Olympian. Her coach happens to be Florence Griffith-Joyner, the husband of Jackie Joyner-Kersee.

Her performances and speed, although she has not brought the same kind of intensity into the Olympics, is what allows her to own the moniker as the fastest women in the United States, if not the world. From her body of work, which has been seen over the years, she has won three world championships in the 200 meter and finished second at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics. But if she’d like to post the quickest time and respectively finish first to accept the gold medal, an award she has been dreaming of and running after for years, Felix must beat rival Campbell-Brown. Felix saw an opportunity to accomplish her No. 1 goal, as she stated so often over the years.

She wants gold, not silver, not bronze. Gold.