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Allyson Felix eager to double again

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NEW YORK — Allyson Felix reflected on her trying season and looked ahead in an interview while at a USA Track and Field Hershey RunJumpThrow event across from Central Park earlier this month.

Felix, a nine-time Olympic medalist, spoke three weeks after taking silver in the 400m in Rio, competing after partially tearing two ligaments in her right ankle in late April.

She had hoped to go for a 200m-400m double in Rio — the Olympic schedule was even changed to make it more accommodating after her coach’s request — but, while slowed even more by the ankle, she finished fourth in the 200m at the Olympic Trials in July, missing the Olympic team in her trademark event by .01.

Here are highlights from the interview:

OlympicTalk: Given the circumstances, could you have asked for a lot more this year?

Felix: It was an insane year. I can put it into perspective now. I’m definitely still disappointed, even though things didn’t go as I planned before [the Olympics], I was still hoping to be able to pull it out. So Rio was really challenging for me. Even when I got there, it just seemed like things kept happening. It was a tough time, but I feel like I learned a lot of lessons. I’m so grateful that I was even able to have that experience.

OlympicTalk: Were you 100 percent in Rio?

Felix: I was good enough to compete. They told me [in Rio] I still have six months before my ankle is not going to feel anything, but I felt like I was good enough to go out there and compete. Ankles are just tricky. It’s one of those things where you’re still going to have residual pain. But it was nothing I couldn’t manage.

OlympicTalk: A lot of athletes ended their seasons at the Olympics — Usain Bolt, Wayde van Niekerk, Justin Gatlin. Why did you race in Zurich [on Sept. 1], especially coming off the ankle injury?

Felix: It’s always very tough to compete after a major championship. I had already made the commitment earlier in the year [to compete at the meet in the 200m], and the only 200m I had was at Olympic Trials. So I just wanted to see where I was at. I know I wasn’t prepared how I should be prepared, but I just wanted to kind of see where my speed was.

OlympicTalk: Did Zurich [finishing third behind the Olympic gold and silver medalists] give you any thought of how it would have gone in the 200m in Rio?

Felix: It’s never fun to lose, but that [Zurich] race was actually really encouraging because I know my preparation. And I know the speed work was not there. So to be able to come out and run 22, close to 22 flat, I know that once the [speed] work is there, I’ll be able to be competitive.

OlympicTalk: Do you see yourself as more of a 400m runner now?

Felix: No, I’m always hanging onto the 200m. I just feel like I haven’t ran it [the 200m] in the past few years, for one reason or the other [neither at the 2015 Worlds due to a tight schedule nor 2016 Olympics due to not qualifying]. The opportunity hasn’t quite been there. I’m excited, looking forward to this year [2017]. I’m not sure exactly what I’m going to do, but I know that I’m not done with the 200m yet.

OlympicTalk: Does what happened this year make you want to do the double even more or not do it?

Felix: It definitely does make me want to do it because my training was going so well before [the injury]. I’m just so curious what I could have done. That’s the thing that really eats me up, to know that I wasn’t at my best to be able to do it. To see where I would be in four years, I don’t know. Or at a world championships [in 2017 or 2019], I’m not sure.

OlympicTalk: Being a Los Angeles native, who would you choose to speak to the IOC members on LA 2024’s behalf at the vote next September?

Felix: I would love to see a lot of people who were around in ’84. Not necessarily L.A. home people, but people who were competing — Valerie Brisco-Hooks, even Jackie [Joyner-Kersee]. Even some great L.A. people who not so much connected to the [1984] Olympics, but Magic Johnson, just L.A. people in general. I think there are a great mix of people that are lobbying for this to come.

OlympicTalk: If you could change one thing about track and field to increase its popularity, what would it be?

Felix: That’s a really tough question. There’s a lot of things that we could alter, but I would love to see more street races. More events surrounding the sport where people can be up close to it, be entertained, instead of a traditional track meet.

OlympicTalk: Is there anybody you enjoy watching in track and field, not including training partners and friends?

Felix: I’m a fan of the sport, so there’s a number of them. I love watching [2012 Olympic 400m champion] Kirani [James] compete. Where the men’s 400m is now, I mean, Wayde [van Niekerk] was amazing. I think they never shy away from races. They’re competitors. I love watching the jumps. What Jeff [Henderson] did in Rio [in the long jump] was amazing. I love watching Emma [Coburn in the 3000m steeplechase], an event that is so foreign to me. She’s the sweetest.

MORE: Usain Bolt, coach differ on 2017 Worlds races

Chinese lead, star pairs struggle in world championships short program

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China’s Sui Wenjing and Han Cong recorded the highest pairs short program score in the world since the 2014 Olympics, topping the world championships field in Helsinki on Wednesday.

Two-time defending world champions Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford of Canada and Olympic silver medalists Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov are well behind in seventh and 13th place, respectively.

Sui and Han, in just their second event this season, tallied a personal-best 81.23 points.

They lead by 1.39 over Germans Aliona Savchenko and Bruno Massot going into the free skate Thursday (1 p.m. ET, NBCSN, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app).

Russians Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov are in third.

The Chinese will go for their first world title after giving up a short-program lead last year and taking silver for a second straight time.

Full worlds short program results are here.

PREVIEWS: Men | Women | Pairs | Dance | TV schedule

Sui and Han missed the fall season after Sui underwent right ankle and left foot surgeries last spring. They returned at the Four Continents Championships in February and posted personal-best free skate and total scores, ranking only behind Tarasova and Morozov for the season.

Duhamel and Radford, looking to become the first pair to three-peat in 40 years, came in slowed by Radford’s hip injury suffered in the last week. Radford was off-balance on his triple toe loop landing Wednesday. Duhamel’s hand touched the ice on her throw triple Lutz landing.

They scored 72.67 points, which is 8.56 behind Sui and Han.

Stolbova and Klimov both suffered falls in their short program and scored 65.59, qualifying for the 16-pair free skate by four points. The Russian champions missed the autumn season due to Stolbova’s left leg injury.

The top U.S. pair was Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Christopher Knierim, who posted a personal-best 72.17 points for eighth place. The husband-and-wife pair are competing for the second time this season after Scimeca Knierim’s serious abdominal injury.

U.S. champions Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier suffered two falls and placed 20th, matching the worst U.S. pairs finish in worlds history. They did not qualify for the 16-pair free skate.

Therefore, the Knierims must finish 10th or better after the free skate to ensure the U.S. earns two pairs places at the 2018 Olympics.

Pairs is the U.S.’ weakest discipline. The last U.S. medal in pairs at worlds came in 2002. The last Olympic medal was in 1988.

North Korean pair Ryom Tae Ok and Kim Ju Sik placed 14th in the short program, the highest of any pair expected to compete for one of four final Olympic quota spots in September.

North Korea sent no athletes to the Sochi Olympics, and it’s not a guarantee it will qualify any athletes for PyeongChang, or if it will send athletes to South Korea in February. But Ryom and Kim’s personal best by nearly 11 points on Wednesday was very encouraging.

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MORE: U.S. pairs skater back from life-threatening condition

Pairs Short Program
1. Sui Wenjing/Han Cong (CHN) — 81.23
2. Aliona Savchenko/Bruno Massot (GER) — 79.84
3. Yevgenia Tarasova/Vladimir Morozov (RUS) — 79.37
8. Alexa Scimeca Knierim/Christopher Knierim (USA) — 72.17
20. Haven Denney/Brandon Frazier (USA) — 56.23

Missy Franklin out due to shoulder surgeries

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Missy Franklin is sidelined from swimming competition for an undisclosed period of time to recover from surgeries on both of her shoulders due to bursitis, according to her social media.

“This is what’s best for me to come stronger than ever,” was posted on Franklin’s Instagram. “I’m so far from being done with this sport.”

The five-time Olympic champion was diagnosed in early January following an MRI, underwent surgeries that month and has returned to limited training.

Franklin, who has not raced since the Rio Olympics, will not compete in the next USA Swimming Pro Series meet in Mesa, Ariz., in two weeks.

Her return date is not set.

The U.S. Championships are in June in Indianapolis and serve as a qualifying meet for the world championships in Budapest in July.

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