Allyson Felix did not have a hair out of place, which said something because trailing behind her neck were plaited locks so thick you would think they would slow down her progress. At the Nagai Stadium here in Osaka (31 Aug), it was not the only thing trailing behind her.
In the space of 21.81 seconds, the young American produced a performance of such power and outstanding brilliance to win gold in the 200 metres that you had to turn the clock back 59 years to find its equal.
“I was not aware of that,” said Felix, 21, when she was told that her winning margin was the furthest in a women's 200m race at a global championships since the Olympic Games in London in 1948.
Last night, Felix won by 0.53 when she beat World 100m champion Veronica Campbell, of Jamaica; in 1948, Fanny Blankers-Koen, of the Netherlands, beat Audrey Williamson by 0.80 as she won the Olympic title.
One of the great ironies is that in London, Blankers-Koen won four gold medals and now, less than five years before the Olympics return to England’s capital, the sport could be witnessing the start of another athlete ready to multi-task her way to regular spots on the top of the podium.
Felix, the daughter of an ordained minister from Southern California, is looking to expand the talent which saw her retain the 200m gold here by breaking 22-seconds for the first time, the quickest run at the distance since her fellow American Inger Miller won the event at 7th IAAF World Championships in Athletics in Seville in 1999.
“I need to add the 100m or the 400m because I have matured as an athlete and I am able to handle it now,” said the Felix, the Olympic 200m silver-medallist from Athens three years ago. “I will not make the decision until the season is finished.”
She could leave Osaka with two more gold medals, from both relays if she becomes part of the USA team. But looking to run different events individually as well could put her on track to join some of the sport’s legends, such as Blankers-Koen.
Her performance in retaining this gold medal, as she obliterated her personal best of 22.11, was stunning. She hit the bend just ahead, and then with 50m left, just stretched her lead further.
As she hit the line, she dipped with the sort of force of a sprinter needed to edge out an opponent which was hardly the case here and with it came 12th position on the World all-time lists.
Felix runs with elegance, her speed pumped up by the almost-clockwork motion of her arms which never lose their gravity. Campbell, the Olympic 200m champion was second in 22.34, a season’s best time, with Susanthika Jayasinghe, of Sri Lanka, third in 22.63.
Sanya Richards, Felix’s American teammate seeking redemption after failing to make the 400m team, was fifth in 22.70, never able to keep up with the finale which the champion brought into the race.
Beijing lies in wait for Felix, but the Olympics are not top of her priorities.
“I am going to finish my last semester,” said Felix, as she revealed her immediate plans. She is studying a degree in Elementary Education at the University Of Southern California and it is there she will go before returning to Europe, probably for the 5th IAAF / VTB Bank World Athletics Final in Stuttgart on 22-23 September.
But not before celebrating this victory, having broken an important barrier at last.
“This race was really special,” added Felix. “I have been at 22-seconds for as long as I can remember and to work so hard this year, after not being so great last year, and to win the title at the same time, it was fantastic.”
“I was so focussed on my goals. I do not do it for the attention, just for the challenge. I feel like I am using my talent to the best of my ability and it really showed. To have it happen tonight was definitely the plan.”
Richard Lewis for the IAAF