Allyson Felix can write another golden chapter in her storied career by joining an elite band of women to have claimed Olympic titles in both the 200m and 400m as she focuses on the one-lap event at the Rio 2016 Olympics Games.
Another gold medal in Rio will also make Felix the first woman in athletics history to win five Olympic titles.
The multi-talented all-round sprinter has claimed a staggering 13 outdoor global titles during her illustrious career. However, an ankle injury picked up in the weight room in April seriously compromised her preparations for the 2016 outdoor campaign.
An undercooked Felix just missed out on qualifying for the Olympic team in the 200m – the individual event where she landed the 2012 Olympic title – at the US Trials but impressively qualified for the 400m in a time of 49.68 to place her second on the world lists for the one-lap event.
Competing sparingly this season has been tough on the 30-year-old Californian, but putting all her individual focus on the one-lap event may not be a bad thing as the world 400m champion bids to emulate Betty Cuthbert, Irena Szewinska, Valerie Brisco-Hooks and Marie Jose-Perec as the fifth woman to secure Olympic 200m and 400m titles.
Miller out to stop Felix
Felix’s chief rival is world leader Shaunae Miller, who has enjoyed a so far flawless season over the one-lap distance with five wins out of five. The 6ft 1in tall Bahamian, who carried her nation’s flag at the opening ceremony on Friday, banked silver behind Felix at last year’s World Championships, but on the evidence of her 2016 form she has stepped up a notch from 12 months ago.
An impressive winner at the Shanghai, Eugene and London IAAF Diamond League events, the 2011 world U18 and 2010 world U20 champion will be full of confidence after setting a personal best and world-leading time of 49.55 in her final pre-Rio outing in the British capital.
The US team is buttressed by Phyllis Francis, who finished seventh at the World Championships last year. The 24-year-old had experienced a relatively low-key season but delivered when it mattered, setting a season’s best of 49.94 to place second at the US Olympic Trials.
The experienced Natasha Hastings, a fifth-place finisher at the 2013 World Championships, completes the US contingent after placing third in Eugene in a season’s best of 50.17.
Jamaica has never won this title, but in Rio boast a powerful trio of athletes all capable of making the podium. National champion Stephenie-Ann McPherson has placed fourth and fifth at the past two editions of the World Championships and with a season’s best of 50.04 should be respected.
The 29-year-old Christine Day (50.29) finished fourth at the World Championships in 2015 and is similarly well placed to attack the medals. The Jamaican triumvirate is complete by world bronze medallist Shericka Jackson, who has recorded a best of 50.42 this season.
Christine Ohuruogu is bidding to become the first woman in history to regain the Olympic title following her success at the 2008 Beijing Games. The 32-year-old British veteran has been some way short of her best this season. However, the Londoner, who took Olympic silver in front of her home fans four years ago, is a blue chip championship performer and will be encouraged by a season’s best 51.05 in her most recent outing in London.
Italy’s Libania Grenot romped to victory at the recent European Championships and the 33-year-old, who set a season’s best 50.43 in the semi-finals in Amsterdam, is another potential finalist.
Other contenders include European silver medallist Floria Guei of France, Zambia’s African gold medallist Mupopo Kabange and African Games silver medallist Patience George of Nigeria.
Steve Landells for the IAAF