Double trouble? Ankle injury has Felix on edge for trials

Allyson Felix's first prelims at Olympic trials will be just her second test on her ankle in competition since the injury. Pedro Ugarte/AFP/Getty Images

EUGENE, Ore. -- Allyson Felix is supposed to be cementing her track legacy this summer.

Instead, she comes into U.S. Olympic trials hobbling, unsure and simply hoping for third place.

On a slow, painful comeback from a freak injury to her right ankle, the most decorated female sprinter in U.S. history will have to grit out spots on the 200 and 400-meter teams to have a chance to become the first woman to capture that double at the Olympics.

The trials were supposed to be little more than a warmup and a bon voyage party for the 30-year-old, six-time Olympic medalist. But when Felix landed awkwardly on a medicine ball while doing core exercises at her gym in Los Angeles two months ago, everything changed.

"I've never seen my ankle that big before, and it happened just immediately," she said. "When it happened, there were a number of thoughts running through my head. A scary moment. I'd never had anything like that happen before."

After the fright, came frustration and a slow recovery.

She's had to alter her workout routine, including running the wrong way around the track, so as not to put as much strain on her right ankle, which, as the outside ankle, is more at risk over counterclockwise trips around the oval.

She has not been able to prepare for the grueling schedule that the double will require in Rio. It was Felix's camp that pushed for the scheduling change the International Olympic Committee granted in order to make the double possible. Even with the adjustment, Felix will have to race on five consecutive days, including Aug. 15, which features 200-meter prelims in the morning and the 400 final at night.

Maybe most alarming, Felix has barely raced this year. The 400-meter prelim Friday will be only her second test of the ankle in real competition since the injury.

She concedes she has thought about scaling back her schedule, maybe to focus on the 200 meters -- her specialty, and the one at which she's won three gold medals at world championships and a gold and two silvers at the Olympics.

She hasn't been able to let go of her dream, though.

"I set those goals long ago," she said. "I wanted to fight to be able to have that opportunity. I don't know if I'll ever have it again."