Unlike the Beijing 2015 World Championships where Allyson Felix pulled out of the 200m on her volition, focusing instead on the 400m, this time around the decision was taken out of her hands as the London 2012 Champion just couldn’t muster enough speed to finish among the Top 3 on the final day of the US Olympic Trials.
Instead, it would be teammate LaShawn Merritt going for the 200m/400m in Rio after setting a WL of 19.74s in the semis of the 200m, and finishing 2nd in the final of the US Trials held at the Hayward Field in Oregon.
Worthy of mention is the fact that Merritt has been at the top of the world rankings since April where he clocked an astonishing 19.78s in the Bahamas, and holds three of the five fastest times in the world this year.
Having captured the title in the women’s 400m days earlier with a World Lead (WL) of 49.68s, it had been taken for granted that Felix, whose specialist event is the 200m, would somehow finish among the Top 3.
Fate however played a cruel one on the defending champion as she missed making the cut by just a hundredth of a second.
Tori Bowie sped to the finishing line in 22.25s, with Deajah Stevens (22.30s) and Jenna Prandini (22.53s) following, while Felix finished 4th in 22.54s, making it the first time since 2000 that the 30-year old won’t feature in the 200m at the Olympics.
The US Championships is the first competition Felix has participated in this season due to an ankle injury she sustained after an accident in the weight room, which prevented her from doing enough speed work. She said:
“I could only do what I could with the ankle and unfortunately that’s what suffered. I gave it all I have but it just wasn’t enough today. I leaned at the line and it just wasn’t there.
“Honestly disappointed, you know? The whole year, that has been what I was working for. When I look back and see everything that happened, I still think it’s quite amazing I was able to make the team.”
All eyes will now be on Merritt to see how he fares in this quest for the double, seeing that he faces daunting opponents in both events. The Beijing 2015 Silver medallist already booked his place in the 400m after winning the trials with a time of 43.97s, and will be joined by Gill Roberts and David Verburg in the event.
In the 200m final on Sunday, Justin Gatlin out-leaned Merritt to win with a Season’s Best (SB) of 19.75s as Merritt followed in 19.79s, and Ameer Webb placed 3rd in 20.00s.
Having already won an Olympic title in the 400m (Beijing 2008), Merritt may lean towards the 200m a bit more in Rio. However he will have World Record (WR) holder Usain Bolt and Gatlin to contend with amongst other opponents.
Of course reigning World Champion Wayde Van Niekerk and defending champion Kirani James will be waiting for him in the 400m, and it will be interesting to see the American try to make the podium in both events.
Other US sprinters doing the double in Brazil are Gatlin (100m/200m), Tori Bowie (100m/200m) and Tianna Bartoletta who will be going for the women’s 100m/Long Jump.