The news headlines were unforgiving: "fails," "misses" and "comes up short" in reference to Allyson Felix's unsuccessful attempt to qualify for the Rio Olympics in the 200-meter dash, her signature event.
But the focus now for the three-time world champion and Olympic gold medalist is not on the missed opportunity after placing fourth at the U.S. Olympic track and field trials in Eugene, Oregon. It's on a reimagined one: three gold medals instead of four.
Prior to the 200-meter race at the legendary Hayward Field, Felix already had qualified for Rio in the 400 meters. She won the event in 49.68 seconds, the fastest time in the world this year. Seven days later on July 10, when she attempted the other half of the double goal, she came through the finish just a hundredth of a second shy of becoming only the third American to qualify for the 200 and 400 in the Olympics. The feat has been achieved only by Michael Johnson in 1996 and Valerie Brisco-Hooks in 1984.
Felix entered the trials physically vulnerable. In late April, she nursed an ankle injury suffered during a weight training session, which prevented her from performing crucial speed work leading into the trials. She needed a top-three finish in the 200 to advance to Rio but was edged by Jenna Prandini.
Despite the unexpected outcome, the 30-year-old Felix shared that her disposition entering her fourth and possibly final Olympic Games remains strong. She's on the hunt for gold this August -- in the 400 meters and potentially the 4x100 and 4x400 relays.
espnW: There was a slight delay in posting the finishing times on the scoreboard. What was your reaction?
I knew that it had to be extremely close because of the proximity that Jenna and I were to each other. The time that I ran was just more confirmation that I wasn't where I needed to be. It was a hard race. I could think, 'what if,' but that's not my reality. The world doesn't wait for you. You have to pick up the pieces, and there's a race to be ran at the Olympics. I've just got to keep moving forward.
Knowing you were about to compete less prepared than what you would have liked, how did that impact your confidence at the trials?
As far as the speed work, I didn't really get to it. There was a lot of uncertainty because typically I go into a season with five or six races before I go to trials or nationals. I had two low-key races in L.A. So I wasn't quite sure what to expect. I felt confident that I worked really hard, but it was more doubt in my body, that it couldn't hold up through everything that I needed it to do. I just didn't quite feel myself in the 200. It was a more difficult race.
How's your ankle?
It's doing better. It's a process. It never had time to heal because I didn't have time. I go to therapy every morning, and I'm still doing rehab so obviously it's not 100 percent. But I'm hoping it'll be much closer to that by the time I actually have to step on the track in Rio.
It's a balance between pushing yourself, but not too much, so you stay healthy.
Exactly. That was the issue since it happened. What can we do, and what can't we do?
How are you managing that balance as you prepare for Rio?
Training definitely looks different than it typically would because I'm still getting huge amounts of therapy, still spending a lot of time with rehab exercises, and I can't do everything that I would like to do. But it's looking closer and better than before.
How are you reprocessing your expectations?
I had to refocus. My goals are different now. Different doesn't always have to mean negative or that it's something bad. Every event that I'm in I'm going after gold. Before, I had wanted to go after four gold medals, and now after trials, my goal is to go after three gold medals, so just one event less is the difference.
In what ways has your coach Bob Kersee influenced your perspective since the trials?
He's been everything. Folgers [coffee] is doing a campaign with the hashtag "one cup at a time," and it celebrates influential people in my life and people who've made a difference. Bobby is obviously that person for me. He believed in me more than I believed in myself from the moment the injury happened. He was that person with the wisdom and the knowledge telling me we were still going after everything the same. He's helped me regroup and continues to push me the only way he knows he can do.
What is it about your bond with him that has helped you thrive?
It's really just his personality. We just have a great partnership. We're complete opposites. He's loud and yells, but we work well together. And also, just his wisdom. I look at the things that I want to accomplish, and he's been there, done that. It's great when you can have that trust in someone that has done it before and can lead you there.
Earlier this year when the injury happened, I was feeling sorry for myself and a little down, like I had done all of this work, and it felt like it was all for nothing. When I came home from the doctor, he was at my house. He was icing with me every 20 minutes and had a talk with me about still going after everything I wanted and not letting this [the injury] change things. That was a moment when he saw something that I couldn't see.
You've said you're not ruling out Rio as your last Olympics.
This could be it or not. I'm just taking everything year by year. But I'm definitely going into this one to just appreciate everything and be grateful to be there and give it my all.
Do you feel nostalgic since competing in your first Olympics in Athens at 18?
It's so crazy, man. I don't know where the time has gone. I remember when I was 18, everything was completely new, and I was taking everything in. And now I'm coming in very focused with a very clear-cut goal. But one thing remains the same: my passion and love for the sport and love for the Olympic spirit. I get so excited about opening ceremonies and everything that the Olympics has to offer. It is different this time around, but that excitement and joy are definitely still there.
What will bring you full satisfaction in Rio?
To walk away with three gold medals would be amazing. But also just getting to that starting line with the ups and downs, completing the journey ... that will also make me very happy.