Allyson Felix could not qualify for her fourth Olympic team at 200 meters but is still the reigning world champion at 400 and is considered the favorite for the Rio gold at that distance. However, the USA’s most decorated active sprinter looks set to face an unexpected challenge next month.
South Africa’s Caster Semenya now plans to vie for gold in the 400 in addition to being the favorite at 800 and pull off an incredibly rare double, Nick Zaccardi of Olympic Talk reports.
An 800-meter phenom who experienced gender-testing scrutiny after blowing away the field at the 2009 world championships, Semenya has put the one-lap event on her itinerary in 2016. Sprint events representing one of the United States’ top Olympic strengths, Semenya now figures to draw more attention stateside after being a dominant middle-distance runner for years worldwide.
Only one woman ever, Ann Packer of Great Britain, has medaled at both the 400 and 800 in the same Olympics, doing so in 1964. The double Felix planned to attempt, the 200-400, is not nearly as rare by comparison.
But the 29-year-old Felix, who can now focus strictly on the 400 after an injury limited her speed work in 2016, is still considered the superior runner at this event with a 49.26-second clocking to her credit en route to the 2015 gold medal at worlds. Semenya collected a silver medal at the 2012 London Games in the 800 and has run a personal-best 50.74 seconds in her new race this year. Felix boasts a world-leading time of 49.68 in 2016.
“The main thing for me is try to run under 50. That’s the main target,” Semenya said Friday, via Zaccardi.
The 25-year-old South African eclipsed her personal-best time in the 800 this year, clocking a world-leading 1:55.33 — the fastest time in the world since 2008.