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Allyson Felix came into this year with aspirations of becoming the first woman in Olympic competition to defend her 200-meter title.
Felix, a Santa Clarita resident and 2003 graduate of L.A. Baptist High School in North Hills, will still have an opportunity to make history August 12 to 20 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, but it will be a different pursuit for the four-time Olympian.
After a right ankle injury in April altered her training schedule in preparation for the U.S. Olympic Trials, held July 1 to 10 in Eugene, Oregon, Felix won the 400, but was unable to qualify for the American roster in the 200 following a fourth-place finish.
As a result, the 30-year-old Felix is attempting to become only the second U.S. woman and fourth in the world to capture career Olympic gold medals in both the 200 and 400, joining American Valerie Brisco-Hooks, Poland's Irena Szewinska and France's Marie-Jose Perec.
"I'm definitely optimistic. That's just a part of who I am," Felix said. "This is something none of us saw coming, an obstacle in the road, but I think that's the thing about challenges, you get creative and you figure out how to go through them. It's been a year of adversity and I feel like I can overcome."
Despite running the event for only the third time this year, Felix clocked 49.68 in the 400 to win the Olympic Trials, the second-fastest time in the world, trailing only Shaunae Miller of the Bahamas.
"It took a lot of help from other people, amazing physical therapists, chiropractors, a lot of people helping me get back out there each day and just trusting [coach] Bob Kersee," Felix said. "I have put in so much work and to see it all come together when three months ago I was barely walking. It's been a tough year and it was a relief."
A nine-time World champion, Felix produced a personal-best 49.26 to capture the 400 title for the first time last summer in Beijing, inspiring her to pursue Olympic gold this year in the one-lap race after capturing the 200 championship in 2012 in London.
"I've never met anyone as TOUGH as her. Just when
it looks like the odds are against her, she reminds all of us just how strong she can be."
"I've always believed the 400 is her best race," Bob Kersee said. "She's one of the best of all time. She really wants to represent the U.S. in the Olympics. She believes in the red, white and blue."
Felix, already a member of American gold medal 4 x 400 relays the past two Olympics, will have an opportunity to lead the U.S. to its record sixth consecutive title in Rio, looking to add to her six career Olympic medals.
"I'm a fighter. It was going to take a whole lot not to get me here," Felix said. "I'm going to give it everything I have. My goals are the same. I'm going to leave it on the track."
Felix was edged by former University of Oregon standout Jenna Prandini by a 22.53 to 22.54 margin for third place in the 200 final at the Olympic Trials. Only three athletes are allowed to represent each country in an Olympic track and field event, resulting in Felix being denied a fourth straight 200 appearance in the Olympics.
"All year I planned for the 200, and for it to end at the trials, it's disappointing. But when I look back and see everything that happened, I still think it's quite amazing that I was able to make this team," Felix said. "Trials are hard. It's this huge thing you have to get through. A lot of times you do feel like it's this bigger thing than even the Olympic Games. A lot of other people from other countries, they don't have that pressure that you have to go through. It's the hardest team to make and everything has to click on that specific day."
With more time to rehabilitate and strengthen her ankle since the trials, Felix is not only motivated to secure a medal in her fourth straight Olympics, but join Sanya Richards-Ross and Brisco-Hooks as the only American women to win an Olympic title in the 400.
"She continues to amaze and inspire me," said Wes Felix, Allyson's older brother and agent. "I've never met anyone as tough as her. Just when it looks like the odds are against her, she reminds all of us just how strong she can be."