Allyson Felix won her record-breaking ninth World Championships gold medal and 11th overall, but first in the 400m, taking the one-lap race in Beijing on Thursday night.
It may set her up for a daunting Rio Olympic double.
At the Bird’s Nest, Felix clocked a personal-best 49.26 seconds to break her tie with Carl Lewis and Michael Johnson for the most Worlds gold medals won by an American. She also broke her tie with Lewis and LaShawn Merritt for the most Worlds medals by an American. She also became the first woman to win World titles in the 200m (she has three) and the 400m.
Felix took gold over the Bahamas’ Shaunae Miller (49.67) and Jamaica’s Shericka Jackson (49.99).
“I never really thought I’d see this day,” Felix told Lewis Johnson on Universal Sports.
Felix, the Olympic 200m champion, had the option of racing the 200m, the 400m or both in Beijing. She chose the 400m solely, partly because she deemed the 200m-400m double wasn’t doable given the 200m semifinals and 400m final were about an hour apart Thursday.
She chose the 400m over her longtime trademark 200m because she wanted to challenge herself over the longer distance.
The challenge could have been greater. Neither Olympic 400m champion Sanya Richards-Ross nor the world’s fastest woman in the event before Thursday, Francena McCorory, made the team in the event at the U.S. Championships in June.
Felix ran the 200m and 400m at the 2011 World Championships, with one day off between events, and won silver in the 400m and then bronze in the 200m. For the 2012 Olympics, Felix chose the 100m to complement her 200m, finishing fifth in the 100m before capturing her first individual Olympic gold in the 200m.
Now that the three-time Olympian Felix has her individual Olympic title, she has more freedom to explore in 2016.
Felix has said her coach would voice his opinion to officials about the Rio Olympic track and field schedule, where the 200m first round and 400m final are a little more than an hour apart.
“If I’m fit enough to do it, I would [run the 200m and 400m at the Olympics],” Felix told Johnson on Universal Sports, later telling media in Beijing, “It has to be one of those perfect storm type of things.”
Felix said if she could run only one event at the Rio Olympics, she would choose the 200m.
If the Rio schedule could be changed to allow one day off between the 200m and 400m (as it was for Johnson to race the 200m and 400m in Atlanta 1996), Felix might be more inclined to attempt the 200m-400m double at the Olympics.
“I’ve put in my time,” Felix said, according to The New York Times. “But that’s all on the people in charge of the scheduling, and I understand that there are a lot of things that go into that. There are also some other great people who can do that double, as well. It’s a pretty common double, so I think for us and for the future, it would be a good thing for the sport.”
Two women have won the 200m and 400m at one Olympics (when there was at least one day off between events) — American Valerie Brisco-Hooks in 1984 and France’s Marie-Jose Perec in 1996.
Felix could earn two more medals in the 4x100m and 4x400m relays this weekend.
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