Felix – “it’s nice to see the younger generation ruling”


Felix – “it’s nice to see the younger generation ruling”

Monday 6 December 2004

Allyson Felix first came to celebrity status when she was chosen as the high school’s homecoming queen as a senior at L.A. Baptist, a small private school in the San Fernando Valley of Southern California.

This autumn, Felix strode down the red carpet at the Emmy awards before a worldwide television audience as a special guest of honour after winning the Olympic silver medal in the 200m in Athens.

Indeed, the teenage prodigy, who celebrated her 19th birthday on 18 November has grown on and off the track in the past year. Felix, now has launched her own Web Site, www.AllysonFelixUSA.com, on which she writes a journal and answers fan e-mail.

Skipping college to turn professional

Felix, the youngest U.S. Athletics Olympian in Athens, made headlines as a high school senior in 2003 when she broke Marion Jones’ U.S. high school national record and ran 22.11 in the 200m in the altitude of Mexico City in the Banamex Grand Prix.

She renounced an athletic scholarship to the University of Southern California and her collegiate eligibility, signed a six-year sponsorship deal with adidas and hired former World 110m Hurdles record holder Renaldo Nehemiah as an agent.

Former Los Angeles Dodgers general manger Kevin Malone assisted in the negotiations. Malone is Vice President of Development at The Master’s College Seminary in the Los Angeles suburb of Santa Clarita where Allyson’s father Paul, an ordained minister teaches New Testament Greek.

“People treat her like a superstar but she is the same giggling kid who is concerned if she gets asked to a dance,” Felix’s high school coach Jonathan Patton said. “She is remarkably unaffected by it. She’s grateful for her gift of remarkable talent and make sure that her best comes through.’’

Felix was far from her best during her professional debut at age 17 in the 2003 World Championships in Paris. After a lengthy indoor and outdoor high school season, Felix failed to advance out of the second round.

“I felt a lot of people were sceptical but I wasn’t trying to prove that I had made the right decision,” Felix said. “It added pressure to adjust and the high expectations I had of my own.’’

Training with Pat Connolly in 2004, the former coach of 1984 Olympic 100m gold medallist Evelyn Ashford, Felix won the 200m in the U.S. Olympic Trials and went on to win the silver medal in Athens.

World Junior record…finally!

Her time of 22.18 broke the World Junior record of 22.19 set by the Soviet Union’s Natalya Bochina in 1980. The time, set five years before Felix was born, had eluded her for more than a year after her mark of 22.11 at the Banamex Grand Prix was not ratified because there had been no drug testing.

“Even though the record was taken away, I was still recognized for what I had done,” Felix said. “It was great to finally get it. I was satisfied with the Olympic experience and the adjustment to the professional world of track and field came together.’’

Felix was among the first of a growing number of U.S. athletes such as Justin Gatlin, Alan Webb, Lauren Williams, Sanya Richards and Tiffany McWilliams to turn professional before finishing college. Felix, however, was the only one who skipped college track completely.

The advice of Athens Olympic 100m champion Gatlin, a close friend of Felix who accompanied her at the Emmys, was among the factors in leading her to turn professional.

“It’s good for the sport and it’s nice to see the whole generation of younger athletes ruling on the professional circuit,” Felix said.

Learning the art of patience

Felix took a few bumps in her first full season as a professional. During the indoor season, she finished seventh in the 60m final in the USATF Indoor championships, an event she ran in order to improve her start. In early season outdoor all-comer meets, Felix was humbled running the 800m to build endurance.

“(Connolly) explained that I wouldn’t be running fast for awhile,” Felix said. “It was hard to be patient early and to have that trust that it would come eventually when I had been used to being at the level that I was last season. When we got into speed-work a month before the Trials, it started coming together.”

Sudden change of coach

Felix was left in limbo after the Olympics when she parted ways with Connolly, who had moved from Virginia to California to work privately with Felix.

“We trained through the Olympics and after that decided that we weren’t working together anymore,” Felix said.

Felix said among the factors in the decision was the difficulty of training alone and the desire to remain in Los Angeles, where she attends classes at USC where she is studying to become an Elementary School teacher and shares an apartment with her older brother Wes, a 2002 World Junior 200m bronze medallist and second leg on U.S. World junior record 400m relay squad.

After a two-month hiatus from training after the Olympics, partly due to the lack of a coach, Felix sought the assistance of Bobby Kersee. After a brief meeting, Felix began training with the husband of World Heptathlon record holder Jackie Joyner-Kersee three weeks ago.

Felix said she had always respected Kersee as a coach and admired his wife’s charitable work with the JJK Youth Center Foundation, which supports the development of leadership programmes in urban areas across the U.S.

Competitive training partners

Among Felix’s new training partners are Olympic 100m hurdles champion Joanna Hayes, U.S. Olympians Sheena Johnson and Michelle Perry, and Heptathletes Eunice Barber of France and Canada’s Nicole Haynes.

“It was rough training all year by myself,” Felix said. “I needed competitive training partners. I just wanted to check into the local training possibilities. Bobby and I clicked right away and I decided to explore that. I fit in well with his camp.”


Felix plans to run an abbreviated indoor schedule in preparation for the 200m in the 2005 World Championships in Helsinki and her first full season on the European circuit in the summer.

“My whole goal my first year was to make the Olympic team,” Felix said. “It brought a lot of excitement and confidence to medal. The main issue was if I was ready or needed time to develop in college. Everything was so new and complicated this year and adjusting to how things work as a professional.’’

It seems to have all worked out in the end for Felix.

Kirby Lee for the IAAF