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Thursday, June 21, 2012
'Double' decisions strategic for Felix, Richards-Ross

By Luke Cyphers

EUGENE, Ore. -- Sometimes, the choices athletes make in life come down to the calendar.

That was the case for a pair of American sprinters, Allyson Felix and Sanya Richards-Ross, who are going after different sprint doubles at the U.S. Olympic trials.

For the first time, Richards-Ross will try to make a U.S. team in both her specialty, the 400 meters, where she's a past world champion, and in the 200, in which she's posted the fastest times of her life this year.

Allyson Felix
Allyson Felix is set to race in the 100 and 200 meters at the U.S. Olympic trials, which began Thursday in Eugene.

Felix, meanwhile, who doubled in the 200 and 400 meters at last year's world championships in Daegu, South Korea, is changing up this year, attempting to make the team at 100 and 200 meters instead.

Though their double-duties differ, the logic of their decision-making was similar. For Richards-Ross, the decision was easy. She's healthier than she has been in years (more on that below), and has always thought of herself as a sprinter. But she based her decision largely on the fact that the 400 concluded first at the U.S. trials and in London. With the calendar showing that her pet event would be out of the way early at the trials and allow her some days to rest up for the 200 rounds, she planned her season around the possibility of a double. "For me, the 400 was my priority," she said.

But the 200 was always in the back of her mind. She did a 200 in Manchester early in the season, then ran 400s through the Prefontaine meet the first week of June. When her 400 times were up to par, she decided to run the 200 at the adidas meet in New York on June 9.

"I knew I was in great shape," she said of the 200 in New York. "I wasn't sure how fast I'd go." Turns out, it was quite fast -- a personal record of 22.09 seconds. "To run a PR in the 200 was fantastic," she said. "[After that], it was kind of a no-brainer." After the 400 finishes at the trials, she gets three days off to rest up for the 200. "If I make the team, I want to represent my country," she said. "That's my goal."

The goal is more attainable thanks to a personal medical breakthrough. For years, Richards-Ross has been held back by a chronic disease, originally diagnosed as Behcet's syndrome. Now, though, she said the aching in her joints and skin inflammation that haunted her off and on for years -- which required her to take medicines that negatively affected her training -- has been diagnosed as something different. She's not making that diagnosis public, but she said it resulted in a change in medication, which in turn has had a positive impact on her running.

"I'm 100 percent healthy and it's showing," Richards-Ross said.

Felix said her experience with the meet calendars for the trials and the Olympics played into her decision to go for a shorter 100-200 double this year. Like Richards-Ross, she wanted to play to her strength, which in her case is the 200.

"It all came down to the 200," she said. "I've said from the beginning, that's what was most important for me."

At last year's worlds, Felix grinded through the rounds to win a silver medal in the 400, which left her less spry for the 200, and she finished third in the event she calls "her baby."

So this year, she vowed to take good care of her baby. "It was really about what was going to help me run my best 200 and set me up for the best possible race," she said. "Running the 100 helps me run my 200. That's what it's really all about."

The 100 training benefits her turnover during the 200. "It keeps me in that sprint mode," she said. But mostly, she said, it helps her start. "For me, that's the key -- just trying to get that down," she said. "Just improving on that front end, normally that's where I give up a lot of ground. So having that extra time to be able to work on those things, I definitely feel the benefit."