The image of the 2013 World Track and Field Championships that lasted was Usain Bolt decelerating against the backdrop of a lightning bolt at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium after winning the 100m.
But another powerful scene came five days later.
Allyson Felix, a six-time Olympic medalist, was lifted off a stretcher after tearing her hamstring in the 200m final and carried from lane one off the track by her brother and agent, Wes (video here).
Felix had set out in that race aiming for the solo record of nine World Championships gold medals. She had never been injured in competition before. That created an unfamiliar feeling going into an offseason of rehab and the following outdoor campaign beginning in the spring.
“I wasn’t quite sure how it would go,” Felix said Wednesday at a Nike Women event in New York, with her brother/agent standing a few feet away.
Her coach, Bob Kersee, did not waver. It may take time, but you will be in top form by the end of the season, he stressed to Felix.
“He says stuff,” Felix said, smiling. “I try to trust in him and believe, but it’s different for me, because I haven’t been injured much.”
In May, Felix pulled out of her first scheduled meet since the World Championships with soreness in the hamstring. She traveled to the Cayman Islands for her second scheduled meet the next week, spoke at a pre-meet press conference but scratched out of that one, too.
She turned to Kersee, concerned about the rest of the season, but the coach stuck with the laissez-faire approach.
“We’re going to back off. This year he’s not going to push me,” Felix said. “We’re just going to do things slowly. That was our compromise.”
Felix finally debuted in Shanghai on May 18, finishing fifth in a 400m race, an unimpressive result she laughed about Wednesday. She pulled out of the U.S. Championships in June, again citing the hamstring, and upon returning in Europe, lost more races than she won in the summer.
“It’s not always fun to take things slowly,” Felix said.
In September, Felix headed into the final Diamond League 200m of the year with a season’s best of 22.34 seconds, a time she had bettered each of the previous 11 seasons.
Felix, the Olympic 200m champion, was the sixth-fastest woman in the event for the year when she lined up for that last race in Brussels on Sept .5.
She said she finally felt like the Felix of old in the days leading into the race, and she showed it. Felix won in 22.02 seconds, the fastest time in the world since she won the 2012 Olympic title. No other woman has run that fast since 2010.
“I feel good to be at this place, leading into the next few years,” Felix said after the race in Brussels.
Felix’s original plan for this past season was to run more 400m races, but the nagging hamstring problems and scheduling prevented her from straying too much from her patented 200m.
She goes into 2015, a World Championships year, again wanting to explore the 400m.
“At this point in my career, I’m more open,” Felix said. “With three Olympics, I ran the 200m everywhere. I’m more open to do the 400m.”