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Allyson Felix prize catch for TrackTown Classic

Allyson Felix prize catch for TrackTown Classic

U.S. sprinter has 12 gold medals from Olympics, world championships

By John MacKinnon, Edmonton Journal

EDMONTON - The TrackTown Classic, the Edmonton stop on the National Track League circuit, has been gaining traction in the athletics community for years, the most recent evidence of which is the recruiting of United States sprint star Allyson Felix for this year’s event.

As they say in the entertainment business, that is a great get. And there’s more.

Canadian high jumper Derek Drouin, who won a bronze medal at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, also has confirmed he will return to Edmonton on July 12. Drouin is right in the mix in a crowded international high jump field, as deep a group of jumpers as has ever existed in that event.

And highly ranked U.S. 800-metre runner Nick Symmonds, one of the sport’s most engaging personalities, also will race in Edmonton again this season.

This time out, meet director Peter Ogilvie will showcase the men’s and women’s 4x100- and 4x400-metre relay teams from Canada, USA, Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Ghana, Poland and St. Kitts and Nevis, a bit of a new wrinkle for the Edmonton event. Most of those countries will be working on their synchronization and baton exchanges in advance of the Pan American Games in Toronto later in July.

But the jewel of an impressive lineup so far is Felix, who has won 16 medals, 12 of them gold, at three Summer Olympics and five outdoor world championships. She will compete in the women’s 100m at Foote Field on July 12. It’s not her best event, but there is not a brighter star in female sprinting.

Felix considers the 200m her race, but she has gained the Olympic and world championship podiums, variously, in both relays, the 200 and 400.

It’s a major coup for Ogilvie to have finally secured Felix for the meet, which has swiftly carved out an impressive niche for itself. Not for nothing was the Edmonton meet ranked among the top 30 of 876 one-day, invitational IAAF meets last season.

Felix, a 29-year-old Los Angeles-based sprinter, joins a list of elite athletes who chose to compete in Edmonton over the last three years, including Jamaican sprinter Yohan Blake, U.S. 400m star Sanya Richards-Ross, and 2004 Olympic 100m champion Justin Gatlin, also of the U.S.

With the national track and field championships July 2-5 being held at Foote Field a week before the Classic, the pro event is well-positioned as a convenient, top-quality tune-up meet for the Pan American Games in Toronto for Canadian athletes. It’s also good preparation for the outdoor World Championship in Athletics at Beijing, China, from Aug. 22-30.

Felix demonstrated her fitness for the outdoor season at the Diamond League meet in Doha, Qatar, where she posted a world-leading time of 21.98 seconds in winning the 200m. That time was an eyelash shy of the 21.88 she ran in London to win gold at the Olympics.

The performance was no small thing for Felix, coming a little more than one year out from the 2016 Summer Olymics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. After tearing a hamstring in the 200m final at the 2013 world championships in Moscow, Felix and her coach, Bobby Kersee, used 2014 as a recovery period. She had never suffered a serious injury before, so that was uncharted territory for her.

But by the end of 2014, she was back on form and her start to 2015 demonstrates her progress toward Rio is on track, as it were.

Felix competed in the 100m and 200m sprints in London, as well as the 4x100m and 4x400m relays, winning gold in the 200 and both relays. She placed fifth in the 100m.

At the 2011 worlds in Daegu, South Korea, Felix won silver in the women’s 400m, bronze in 200m and gold in both relays.

Unlike the 33-year-old Gatlin, who has served two doping bans in his career, Felix is free of baggage. When Gatlin ran a 9.74-second 100m in Doha in mid-May, his personal-best time raised eyebrows for many observers, including many athletes, as well it might.

The sporting world has learned the hard, painful way that athletes who get faster, jump higher and demonstrate they are getting stronger as they move into their mid-30s just might be too good to be true.

Not only was Gatlin’s time in Doha a personal best, it is the ninth-fastest time for the 100m in sprinting history.

Felix who won silver in the 200 as an 18-year-old at the 2004 Games in Athens, is the rare athlete who seems too good to be true, and for all the right reasons. A devout Christian (her father, Paul, is an ordained minister; her mother, Marlean, is an elementary school teacher), Felix is a participant in the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s (USADA) Project Believe program.

She is an exemplary athlete and a highly accomplished competitor. As previews of this year’s world championships and the 2016 Summer Games go, the only way for Ogilvie to top this would be to bring Usain Bolt to town.