By David Leon Moore, USA TODAY
LOS ANGELES - The crazy, confused finish of the women's 100-meter race in the U.S. Olympic track and field trials in Eugene, Ore., presented every bit of Allyson Felix- all of her honest emotions, all of her graciousness, all of her maturity.
When she thought she was fourth, originally ruled to be edged out for an Olympic berth by training partner Jeneba Tarmoh, Felix hugged Tarmoh and found a quiet place to sob, as she usually does on the rare occasion of a loss. Then she met the news media with a brave smile.
"I'm happy for my teammate who got the third, but this really hurts," she said.
The ruling was changed shortly after the race to a dead heat for third place, which resulted in a week of controversy regarding USA Track and Field's awkward tiebreaking procedure.
But even as the debate raged about whether there would be a runoff for the third spot and when it might be, Felix maintained her focus on her signature event, the 200 meters. It is the event in which she has made her name, having won three world titles and two Olympic silver medals, and it is the event in which she will be the favorite in the London Olympics.
And when the time came to run the 200 final in Eugene, she presented every bit of her running self - the slow start, the gathering of momentum at 60 meters, the grace, the long strides, the rapid turnover.
She crossed the line first, as usual, and the clock said 21.69 seconds. It was the fastest she had run 200 meters, the sixth fastest of all time and the fastest since Marion Jones ran 21.62 in 1998. The world record is Florence Griffith-Joyner's 21.34, set in 1988.
The controversy of the 100 seemingly a million miles away, Felix took a victory lap around Oregon's Hayward Field, drawing a warm hug from, among others, her mother.
"That was a very, very special moment," Marlean Felix says.
Allyson Felix beamed, talked about how she has been inching along toward the times of Jones and the late Griffith-Joyner and how gratifying it felt to run a personal best in the trials.
"But the job is not done," she said. "It's all about London."
In London, she will run the 100 and the 200 and probably both relays, the 4x100 and the 4x400. She was granted the third spot in the 100 when Tarmoh pulled out of a scheduled runoff, saying she wasn't up to it physically or mentally.
Grounded by school, God
The whole up-and-down experience in the trials - and how she emerged on such a high point - is another example of the admirable balance in the life of Felix, single and 26, who lives and trains in Los Angeles under the guidance of veteran sprinting coach Bobby Kersee.
She is educated, graduating from the University of Southern California in 4½ years with a degree in elementary education - her mother is an elementary school teacher - while launching a successful career in professional track and field.
That wasn't easy.
"It was kind of crazy going to school and doing track at the same time," Felix says. "Actually, it was shocking. I thought it was going to be like high school, where you do practice and you do your schoolwork and it's just kind of easy to balance. But with all the traveling and not being a student in an athletic program and not having tutors or extra help that the student-athletes get, it was hard. I took a lot of stuff on the road. Somehow, I made it work."
Felix was unusually accomplished on the track as a teenager. But when she told her parents she wanted to take a full course load at USC and compete professionally at the same time - forgoing a scholarship in the process - they were concerned it was too much.
She told her parents she wouldn't shirk her schoolwork, that she could compete on the highest professional level while being a serious student.
"I had promised my dad I would go to school at the same time and go all the way through USC," she says. "So it wasn't ever a question of whether I was going to do it or not."
She is spiritual.
Her father, Paul Felix, is an ordained minister who teaches New Testament Greek at The Master's Seminary in Santa Clarita, Calif.
"Growing up as a preacher's kid has really grounded me," Felix says. "I've grown up with these amazing parents who are hard workers, and they truly live out their faith. They've been amazing role models for me. I feel like I really picked up on what they taught me and kept that with me all along in my running and in my career.
"For me, my faith is the reason I run. I definitely feel I have this amazing gift that God has blessed me with, and it's all about using it to the best of my ability."
'I want a gold medal'
Balanced, grounded, spiritual, humble, down to earth and beautiful. But it is not enough.
Not for her, because, as another Olympics draws near, she again feels that, in her mind, there is an imbalance in her Olympic accomplishments.
To Felix, two Olympic silvers do not add up to one gold. Twice, as an 18-year-old and then as a 22-year-old, she has finished second in the Olympic 200 to Jamaica's Veronica Campbell-Brown.
"This Olympics is all about coming away with the gold in the 200," Felix says. "I feel that if that doesn't happen, in my mind, it's a real disappointment and failure. It's all about going there to win."
The Felix camp was thrilled with what it saw in Eugene.
"It was great to see," says her brother and agent, Wes Felix, who was a college sprinter. "There is some room for improvement there, but the way she came off the curve, that was impressive."
Seeing all of her daughter's hopes and dreams wrapped up in one race makes it hard to watch for her mother.
"But the good thing is, we're Christians and we take our faith seriously," Marlean Felix says. "Even though this is her goal and we want so badly for her to achieve it, if it doesn't work out, she'll be fine."
Felix tried the difficult 200-400 double last year in the world championships in Daegu, South Korea, but she ended up winning neither, finishing second in the 400, the first event, then third in the 200.
This year, she has opted for the 100-200 double; the 100 comes first on the Olympic schedule.
Although she is not considered a medal favorite because of her traditionally slow starts, Felix says running the competitive rounds of the 100 keeps her sharp for the 200.
"That's my baby," she says of the 200. "That's what I love. That's what it's been all about for me."
Not winning the 400 or 200 in Korea was a blow.
"I hate to lose," she says. "I truly hate it. I wasn't the happiest camper after losing the 200 and the 400. But Bobby and my family quickly helped me put things into perspective, reminding me I had medaled in both events. And that's great. But for me, it's about winning."
So that's what she thinks about first when she considers the London Games, her third Olympics.
"My focus has definitely changed," she says. "I'm older now. The first time, it was all about the Olympic experience. The second time, I feel I learned a lot about what I could handle. This time, I'm just so focused. I'm motivated. I've had eight years to think about being a silver medalist.
"I want a gold medal."