Allyson Felix
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Allyson Felix adapts to tackle tougher Olympic double than Michael Johnson

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NEW YORK — It’s Saturday, Jan. 16, and Allyson Felix hasn’t yet been told that the Olympic track and field schedule has been changed to make her possible 200m-400m double more feasible in Rio.

“We found it just from checking that website,” said Felix’s older brother and agent, Wes, who then notified his sister. “Then I started getting calls [from media].”

The IAAF, track and field’s international governing body, officially announced the schedule change shortly after 6 ET that evening.

Four hours later, a tweet from Felix’s account expressed how grateful she was toward the IAAF, USA Track and Field and the International Olympic Committee for the schedule change.

On Thursday, Felix reiterated that she’s “happy for the opportunity” that came with the schedule change. But both she and her older brother would have preferred an even greater timetable shift.

The change moved the 200m first round from the same evening session as the 400m final to a morning session earlier that day.

On Thursday, Felix cited the more optimal schedule for a 100m-200m double, with a full day off in between events. (The 100m and 200m also had a day in between at London 2012, where Felix ran her personal-best in the 100m and then won her first individual Olympic title in the 200m.)

“I hope that one day [the 200m-400m] will be the same double like the [100m] and the [200m] and able to not overlap,” Felix said ahead of her last indoor meet of the winter season on Saturday at the Millrose Games (NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra, 4-6 p.m. ET). “In some Games, it doesn’t overlap. So I think we were hoping that would be the solution, maybe finish the 400m and then start the 200m, but just happy for the opportunity to go for it, even though it’s going to be very challenging.”

In 1996, the original Olympic track and field schedule called for the men’s 200m semifinals and 400m final on the same day. Michael Johnson reportedly said then that he would have chosen one individual race if the Atlanta 1996 schedule remained that way.

The March 1996 revised schedule allowed Johnson a full day of rest between the 400m final and the start of the 200m rounds. Johnson, in golden shoes, went on to become the first man to sweep the 200m and 400m at an Olympics.

The women’s 200m-400m double gold has also been done at the Olympics. American Valerie Brisco-Hooks swept them at Los Angeles 1984, and France’s Marie-Jose Perec in 1996.

Brisco-Hooks and Perec, like Johnson, also had one day off between the 400m and 200m in their Olympic schedules.

“We would’ve preferred for there to be a day in there,” Wes said. “We’re super grateful for the change. It at least gives her a shot to do it. … It’s hard enough for the other people who have done it in the past to pull it off. Their schedule was a little bit more favorable.”

Update: Michael Johnson’s Twitter pointed out that he (as well as Perec) had four rounds each in the 200m and 400m in 1996. Felix would have three rounds each in the 200m and 400m.

Felix was asked last fall for her definition of success at her fourth Olympics in Rio and answered, “winning four gold medals.” The 200m, 400m and the 4x100m and 4x400m relays.

Felix and the U.S. relay teams were beaten by Jamaica in the 4x100m and 4x400m at last August’s World Championships, where Felix’s only individual race was the 400m, which she won to set up a potential Rio double.

“The 200m is my baby,” Felix said. “The 400m, we have a love-hate relationship.”

One female track and field athlete has won four golds at a single Games — the Flying Housewife Fanny Blankers-Koen at London 1948 — and two American women have done it — swimmers Amy Van Dyken-Rouen at Atlanta 1996 and Missy Franklin at London 2012.

“I would never want to leave the sport and not go after everything I wanted,” Felix said last fall, adding Thursday, “I’m 30 years old. If I’m going to do it, it’s going to have to be now.”

Felix doubted that she would attempt a 200m-400m double this year if she hadn’t crossed off her first individual Olympic gold medal in London.

“That 200m gold was something I had wanted for so long, and it was such a rocky, up-and-down road to get there,” she said. “Once I did get it, I was able to say, hey, I want to challenge myself more, not set limits. … I think that did make me more comfortable to go for it.”

But the schedule is not completely comfortable. Felix is focusing more on intense workouts on back-to-back days plus training later in the evenings to ready for the possible Rio gauntlet.

“One of the biggest concerns is that there’s a late-night semifinal [8:35 p.m. Rio time on Aug. 14], early morning 200m round [9:35 a.m. Rio time on Aug. 15], late-night final [10:45 p.m. Rio time on Aug. 15], so being able to kind of simulate that in practice,” Felix said.

She must qualify for the Olympic team in the 200m and 400m at the Olympic trials in July first (there are four days off in between events in Eugene, Ore.), and then decide if she wants to compete in both in Rio.

“I would like to think I haven’t run a perfect race,” Felix said. “I hope my perfect race is yet to come.”

MORE: Felix, Gatlin ushered in new era of U.S. sprints

Ehsan Hadadi, Iran’s first Olympic track and field medalist, has coronavirus

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Ehsan Hadadi, Iran’s lone Olympic track and field medalist, tested positive for the coronavirus, according to World Athletics and an Iranian news agency.

“We’ve received word from several Asian journalists that Iranian discus thrower Ehsan Hadadi has tested positive for coronavirus,” according to World Athletics. “[Hadadi] trains part of the year in the US, but was home in Tehran when he contracted the virus.”

Hadadi, 35, became the first Iranian to earn an Olympic track and field medal when he took silver in the discus at the 2012 London Games. Hadadi led through four of six rounds before being overtaken by German Robert Harting, who edged the Iranian by three and a half inches.

He was eliminated in qualifying at the Rio Olympics and placed seventh at last fall’s world championships in Doha.

Jordan Larson preps for her last Olympics, one year later than expected

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Whether the Tokyo Olympics would have been this summer or in 2021, Jordan Larson knew this: It will mark her final tournament with the U.S. volleyball team, should she make the roster.

“I’m just not getting any younger,” said Larson, a 33-year-old outside hitter. “I’ve been playing consistently overseas for 12 years straight with no real offseason.

“I also have other endeavors in my life that I want to see. Getting married, having children, those kinds of things. The older I get, the more challenging those become.”

Larson, who debuted on the national team in 2009, has been a leader the last two Olympic cycles. She succeeded Christa Harmotto Dietzen as captain after the Rio Games. Larson started every match at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics.

As long as Larson was in the building, the U.S. never had to worry about the outside hitter position, said two-time Olympian and NBC Olympics volleyball analyst Kevin Barnett.

“She played as if she belonged from the start,” he said. “They will miss her all-around capability. They’ll miss her ability to make everyone around her better. She’s almost like having a libero who can hit.”

Karch Kiraly, the Olympic indoor and beach champion who took over as head coach after the 2012 Olympics, gushed about her court vision.

“It’s a little dated now, but somebody like Wayne Gretzky just saw things that other people didn’t see on the hockey rink,” Kiraly said in 2018. “And I remember reading about him one time, and the quote from an opposing goalie was, oh my god, here he comes, what does he see that I don’t see right now? She sees things sooner than most people.”

Larson grew up in Hooper, Neb., (population 830) and starred at the University of Nebraska. She was a three-time All-American who helped the team win a national title as a sophomore. She had the opportunity to leave Nebraska and try out for the Olympics in 2008 but chose to remain at school for her final season.

She earned the nickname “Governor” as a Cornhusker State sports icon.

Larson helped the U.S. win its first major international title at the 2014 World Championship. She was also part of the program’s two stingers — defeats in the 2012 Olympic final and 2016 Olympic semifinals, both matches where the U.S. won the first set (and convincingly in 2012).

“It just gives me chills thinking about it now,” Larson said of the Rio Olympic semifinals, where Serbia beat the U.S. 15-13 in the fifth. “That team, we put in so much. Not just on the court but off the court working on culture and working on how are we best for each other. How can we be the best team? How can we out-team people? Certain teams have a better one player that’s a standout that we maybe didn’t have or don’t have. So how can we out-team the other teams? We had just put in so much work that was just heartbreaking.”

Larson and the Americans rebounded to win the bronze-medal match two days later.

“I don’t know anybody that didn’t have their heart ripped out. It was just a soul-crusher of a match,” Kiraly said of the semifinal. “More meaningful was what a great response everybody, including Jordan, mounted to the disappointment of that loss.”

The U.S. took fifth at worlds in 2018 and is now ranked second in the world behind China.

Larson spent the past club season in Shanghai. The campaign ended in mid-January. She hadn’t heard anything about the coronavirus when she took her scheduled flight back to California, learning days later that LAX started screening for it. Now, she’s working out from her garage.

Larson is in line to become the fifth-oldest U.S. Olympic women’s volleyball player in history, according Olympedia and the OlyMADMen.

Her decade of experience could go a long way to help the next generation of outside hitters, led by three-time NCAA champion and Sullivan Award winner Kathryn Plummer.

“If you’re coming into the USA program as an outside hitter, in the next year or the quad or the quad after that,” Barnett said, “the measuring stick is going to be Jordan Larson.”

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