LONDON -- Three thoughts off Wednesday's track and field finals ...
1. Finally, Allyson Felix gets her individual gold. Felix won the 200 meters like she had been preparing for this one race for the last eight years. She went out determined from Lane 7, ran a textbook turn and pulled away from silver medalist Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and bronze medalist Carmelita Jeter with speed she rediscovered by adding the 100 to her training. Felix posted a 21.88, six hundredths of a second off the Olympic record, and .21 better than Fraser-Pryce, the 100-meter champion. Felix's celebration was more of an act-like-you've-been-there-before reaction than a release of nearly a decade of waiting for this golden moment. Felix, 26, took silver to Jamaican Veronica Campbell-Brown at both the 2004 and '08 Olympics. (Campbell-Brown was fourth Wednesday in 22.38, failing to become the first woman to win an individual Olympic track and field event three times.) Felix won the 2005, '07 and '09 world titles in the 200, but lost that crown to Campbell-Brown in '11, when she attempted a 200-400 double at worlds. Felix, exhausted by the 400 training, switched to a 100-200 double this year with the clear goal of finally winning her first individual Olympic gold. It paid off.
2. Aries Merritt capped one heck of a summer with gold in the 110-meter hurdles. Merritt, 27, posted the fifth sub-13 of his career (12.92) to become the first U.S. man to win the event since Allen Johnson in 1996. Defending Olympic champion Dayron Robles got out fast but clipped hurdles and grabbed his right hamstring midway through. From there, Merritt took control and never ceded it, completing a sizzling string of performances. Merritt had never run sub-13 before the Olympic Trials, where he went in as the third American to watch behind reigning world champion Jason Richardson, who took silver here in 13.04, and 2008 Olympic bronze medalist David Oliver, who did not make the London team. Merritt won trials with a personal-best 12.93 and matched that time twice more in European meets in July. It's hard to think of a U.S. track and field athlete who upped their Olympic stock more than Merritt between trials and the Games. In London, Merritt ran the fastest ever Olympic heat (13.07) and semifinal times (12.94). The world record (12.87, held by Robles) is in serious jeopardy moving forward. Of note, Jamaican Hansle Parchment (one of the great names in Olympic history) got bronze in 13.12.
3. Brittney Reese calmed fears and confirmed her dominance. Reese became the first U.S. woman to win the long jump since Jackie Joyner-Kersee outdueled German Heike Drechsler in 1988. Reese came to London as the winner of every world championship (indoor and outdoor) since the Beijing Olympics, when she had the farthest jump in qualifying but failed to medal. But she fouled her first two of three qualifying jumps on Tuesday. She perilously qualified on her final attempt, giving competitors hope that she could be beaten. Reese erased it with her second jump of 23 feet, 4 inches, which was short of her personal best but farther than anybody else in the field had ever jumped. Nobody matched it over six rounds, the silver medalist Elena Sokolova of Russia notching 23 feet, 2 inches. Now, Reese has Olympic gold to accompany her back-to-back indoor and outdoor world titles. Next up for the Gulfport, Miss., native is the American record of 24 feet, 7 inches, held by her idol Joyner-Kersee.
Thursday's storylines: Usain Bolt was only the fifth fastest qualifier into the 200-meter final, but he jogged into it with a 20.18 semifinal Wednesday. He's still the favorite for repeat gold. His training partner, Yohan Blake, posted the best time, 20.01, with a little more exerted energy. Bolt could become the first man to repeat as 200 champion with his fifth career Olympic gold medal (Carl Lewis holds the track and field record with nine golds). ... Ashton Eaton takes the lead into the final five events of the decathlon and has a shot at the Olympic record and his own world record. Reigning world champion Trey Hardee is in silver-medal position. ... The world's most dominant track and field athlete, Kenyan David Rudisha, looks to break his world record in the 800 and become the first man to go sub-1:41. ... The U.S. could go one-two in the men's triple jump with reigning world gold and bronze medalists Christian Taylor and Will Claye.
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