BEIJING (AP) — After Usain Bolt set the record for most gold medals at the world championships, Allyson Felix got started Monday in a bid to join him at nine.
With her usual effortless grace, Felix coasted into the semifinals of the 400 meters, her mind focused on getting her first gold in the one-lap race a decade after she won her first world title in the 200. In between, she has won a slew of 4×100 and 4×400 relay and 200 golds.
Coming into Beijing, Felix was tied at eight with Bolt and American track greats Michael Johnson and Carl Lewis. But Bolt went a notch higher with Sunday’s stirring victory in the 100.
Not that the statistics worry Felix.
“It’s funny, I never even think of the number or anything,” said Felix, who will not compete in the 200 in Beijing. “One step at a time.”
The American sprinter has the season’s second-best time in the 400, behind Shaunae Miller of the Bahamas. Both won their heats and advanced with Stephanie Ann McPherson, the Jamaican who had the day’s top time of 50.34 seconds.
“It felt good to get the first one under me and just keep moving on,” Felix said.
Through much of her career, Felix has raced against the best women in the world. In the overall medal standings, she is right up there with three of the greatest men in the sport’s history.
Bolt still has the 200 and 4×100 relays to pad his total while Felix could line up in both relay races before the championships end.
But while Bolt never has any schedule problems with his sprint races, Felix could not combine her individual 200 and 400 ambitions in the current program, reducing her potential medal haul at the Bird’s Nest. And considering she holds the season’s top time for the 200 as the only woman to break the 22-second mark, she would have been a favorite for gold.
After the Bolt show on Sunday, it’s the women’s sprint that will highlight Monday’s program. Like Bolt, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce will be trying to defend her title in the 100 but will find tough American opposition in Tori Bowie.
Without Tirunesh Dibaba, Kenyan runner Vivian Cheruiyot is the favorite in the women’s 10,000. By tradition, Kenyans are again expected to dominate the men’s steeplechase, and Renaud Lavillenie will be the favorite in the pole vault. The Frenchman, the Olympic champion and world-record holder, has yet to win a world title, however.
Like Lavillenie, Caterine Ibarguen of Colombia is the overwhelming favorite in the women’s triple jump and comes into Monday’s final with a 28-meet victory streak.