Allyson Felix at the pre-meet press conference in Rome (Bob Ramsak) © Copyright
General News Rome, Italy

“I’m kind of learning the 400” - Felix prepares to face Richards in Rome - ÅF Golden League

Double World 200m champion Allyson Felix, who faces $1m Jackpot hopeful Sanya Richards in the Golden Gala, the third meet of the ÅF Golden League 2009 in Rome over 400m on Friday (10 July), believes a similar strategy to that which she adopted in 2007 can reap rewards at the 12th IAAF World Championships in Athletics in Berlin, Germany (15 to 23 Aug).

The versatile Felix has taken a relatively low-key approach to the season so far and her eagerly-awaited one lap showdown with Richards in the Olympic Stadium is her first appearance in Europe this summer.

Nonetheless, the ever-smiling Felix is unbeaten over both the 200m and 400m this year and her 22.02 – albeit wind-assisted - clocking to land the US 200m title in Eugene last month suggests she is approaching the kind of form which swept her to three titles (200m, 4x100 and 4x400) at the 2007 World Championships in Osaka.

“I think it has been similar (to 2007),” said Felix. “My schedule is kind of similar. That year I had slow results and then picked it up at the Worlds. I’m trying to follow that plan. I feel like things are going decent. I think me and Bobby (Kersee her coach) have decided to take a slower approach this year just because last year was so draining. I think things are on pace and we are going to pick it up now we are over here.”

After enjoying a stellar year in 2007 last season proved a relative disappointment as she ‘only’ won Olympic 200m silver – for the second time behind the Jamaican Veronica Campbell-Brown – and 4x400m gold with the US quartet.

The 400m is “more for training purposes”

Which brings us to the 400m. For the past few seasons some experts have predicted that Felix’s best event could ultimately be the quarter-mile. Her beautifully rhythmic running style – in which she glides rather than powers around the track – many believe is perfectly suited to the demands of the 400m.

Her best time for the event dates from 2007, when she ran an impressive 49.70 in Stockholm. This season she has recorded a quickest time of 50.50 to win in New York. So does she have a target time in mind in Rome?

“I haven’t thought about that too much,” she added. “My mind is set on the 400m more for training purposes and that’s how I kind of get through it. It is my last 400m of the year. I’m just excited to be in the field. I need some endurance work and to get my perfect 200m I need to do a lot of 400s and 100s.”

Yes, but does Felix genuinely enjoy the experience of running the one-lap race?

“Not as much as the 200m and I feel that I’m still kind of learning how to run it, so it’s a challenge,” she explained. “I’m kind of learning to like it.”

And what about any plans to compete at the 400m more seriously?

“I’m definitely open to it in the future. I know I have a lot of potential. Eventually I will really have to focus on that. At the beginning of the season, very early on, I decided I wanted to defend my 200m title and get my PR down.”

“I can only focus on myself”

For now though the focus is on the 400m and facing the might of World No.1 Sanya Richards. Felix’s US countrywoman has proved invincible over one-lap this season and after wins in Berlin and Oslo she has her eyes firmly set on the Golden League $1m jackpot.

Yet Felix laughs off suggestions she is out to stop Richards’ quest.

“That’s not my main focus, that’s not my goal,” she insisted. “I can only focus on myself. Sanya is running so well and I can only do well for myself.”

The burning question though is can she beat Richards?

“I don’t know? We haven’t focused on the 400m this year,” she insisted. “I wouldn’t say that my training has been devoted to the 400m. I’m definitely going to go out there and run my best race.”

Felix plans to run over 100m in the fourth round of the 2009 ÅF Golden League series in Paris on 17 July before another 100m outing in Rethymno (20 Jul) and a 200m race in Stockholm on 31 July.

Steve Landells for the IAAF