Standing at a mere one meter, 67 centimeters and weighing just 56.7 kilograms, American Allyson Felix has the perfect disguise to hide the blinding speed of a world class sprinter. VOA's Jim Stevenson has this profile of the small woman with big ambitions for the upcoming Beijing Olympics.
Allyson Felix started running track in her freshman year of high school, when she was known as "chicken legs" by her teammates because of her long, spindly legs. It is doubtful her former teammates could keep up with her now. Felix found she had a special talent for sprinting. She worked to build her leg muscles and reportedly has leg-pressed 317 kilograms and dead-lifted about 110 kilos.
That strength helped propel her to consecutive 200 meter outdoor world titles. With her sights on the Beijing Olympics, Felix initially had sought to stand on the top of the podium in China after running a shorter distance.
"My first ultimate goal is the 100 meters," she said. "And there, I am definitely in it to win it. After that, the 200 meters is my priority. I won silver in Athens . So the only thing to go from there is gold."
But Felix missed the chance to compete for two individual golds in Beijing when she failed to qualify in the 100 meters at the recent U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials in Eugene, Oregon. Her priority now shifts to the 200 meter event after she cruised to victory Sunday at the qualifying meet.
At the 2007 World Athletics Championships in Osaka, Japan, Felix became the second woman in history to win three gold medals at one World Championships. She won the 200 meter race in a personal best 21.81 seconds, with a margin of victory of more than one-half second (.53), the biggest ever in World Championships history.
Allyson Felix has also found success in team events. She earned gold medals at last year's World Championships on the 4 x 100 and 4 x 400 meter U.S. relay teams. And she is hoping to boost the U.S. medal count in Beijing after the individual events.
"I would love to represent my country in the relays, both the 4 x 100 [meter race] and the 4 x 400, which went well in the world championships. So I am hoping they will bring me back for that," she said.
Felix says a strong religious faith provides her motivation to run fast. Her father, Paul, is an ordained minister. Felix is looking beyond her athletic career to working with children.
"My degree is in elementary education. So I definitely want to be in the classroom when I get done," she explained. "I am a Sunday school teacher right now. And that is what I have grown up wanting to do. And so I definitely see myself there."
And Felix definitely sees success in China. Her biggest rival in the 200 meters is once again expected to be Jamaican Veronica Campbell, who edged Felix for the Olympic gold medal four years ago in Athens. Campbell qualified for the Beijing Games in her country's trials with a time of 21.94 seconds. Felix's winning time in the U.S. trials was slightly better at 21.82 seconds. Allyson Felix hopes she can maintain that advantage over Campbell and all her other competitors in China and capture the gold medal.