Chanman's Blog

Doubling Up, Part 3

Allyson Felix running the 400 meters at the 2011 USA Championships. She'll double in the 200 & 400 at the 2011 World Championships in Daegu.

In parts one and two, I began to list some successful doubles at international championships by sprinters and field event athletes. In part three, I finish the list.

The 100/200 Double

The 100/200 double is pretty standard even at international championships. That’s why to make my list, Jesse Owens, Carl Lewis, Fanny Blankers-Koen, Marion Jones, and Heike Drechsler had to add the long jump or hurdles to make their achievements stand out. Three athletes, however, deserve special mention in the 100/200 double department.

Florence Griffith-Joyner, 1988 Olympics – 100, 200, 4X100 meter relay, 4X400 meter relay

Florence Griffith-Joyner, or Flo-Jo, as she was nicknamed burst on to the scene in 1988 with a season never since duplicated by a female sprinter. Her world records in the 100 (10.49) and 200 (21.34) still stand. At the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, sporting long and colorful fingernails, she dominated the 100 (10.54 wind aided) and 200 (21.34, world record) and then came back to run on both USA relay teams. In the 4X100 meter relay she helped the USA to the gold (41.98). In the 4X400 meter relay she helped the USA to the silver 3:15.51. Sadly Flo-Jo passed away at the age of thirty-eight of an epilecptic seizure in 1998. Griffith-Joyner is survived by her husband Al Joyner, the 1984 Olympic triple jump champion and brother of Jackie Joyner-Kersee. Al continues to be active in the sport today, coaching at the US Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista and placing third in the men’s 50 year old age division in the triple jump at the 2011 World Masters Athletics Championships.

Merlene Ottey (Jamaica), 1995 World Championships – 100, 200, 4X100 meter relay

You could pick just about any international championship meet between 1983 and 1996 and Jamaica’s Merlene Ottey was probably competing in some combination of the 100, 200, and 4X100 meter relay. More times than not she was winning a medal, too. Ottey is the proud owner of eight Olympic medals and fourteen World Championship medals. Purely based on the quantity and color of her medal haul, I will call the 1995 World Championships in Gothenburg, her best multiple event meet. She won gold in a photo finish over Russia’s Irina Privalova in the 200 (22.12) when American Gwen Torrence was disqualified for stepping on the lane line on the turn. In the 100 (10.94) and 4X100 meter relay (42.25), Ottey won silver medals. Ottey, who is now over fifty years old, is still competing.

Usain Bolt (Jamaica), 2008 Olympics & 2009 World Championships – 100, 200, 4X100 meter relay

What more can you say about Jamaica’s Usain Bolt? At the 2008 Olympics in Beijing he set world records in winning the 100 (9.69) and 200 (19.30) and then helped Jamaica to a world record in the 4X100 meter relay (37.10). One year later at the 2009 World Championships in Berlin, Bolt “only” set two world records instead of three. He won gold in the 100 (9.58) and 200 (19.19) with world record marks. In the 4X100 meter relay, Jamaica won gold again (37.31) but without much threat of competition, they ran conservatively, safely moving the baton around the track without making an attempt at the world record. Keep in mind that before Beijing the world records were 9.74 and 19.32.

The 200/400 Double

While Allyson Felix’s attempted double would make her the first athlete in World Championship history to pull off the 200/400 double, the feat has been accomplished at the Olympics three times.

Valerie Brisco-Hooks, 1984 Olympics – 200, 400, 4X400 meter relay

At the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, Valerie Brisco-Hooks set out to make history. First up was the 400 meters, where her main rival was fellow American Chandra Cheeseborough. Cheeseborough, who would be a 2008 Olympic Coach for the USA was the reigning American champion and had defeated Brisco-Hooks by over half a second at the US Olympic Trials. But at the Olympics Brisco-Hooks would reverse their finish, winning in 48.83. She was the first woman from outside Eastern Europe to break 49 seconds in the 400 meters. Amazing, considering that her best 400 before 1984 was 52 seconds. Brisco-Hooks would come back to win the 200 (21.81) and helped the US win the 4X400 meter relay (3:18.29). Brisco-Hooks became the first athlete, male or female, to win the 200/400 double at the Olympics.

Michael Johnson, 1996 Olympics – 200, 400

Twelve years after Brisco-Hooks’ feat, Michael Johnson set out to become the first male athlete to win the 200/400 double at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. The closest any male athlete had come was at the 1924 Olympics when Britain’s Eric Liddell won the 400 and placed third in the 200. Johnson won the 200/400 double at the 1995 World Championships and he made no secret of what his goal was in Atlanta. If you didn’t know what that goal was, his special-made gold spikes told you. He was dominating in the 400 meters, winning his fifty-fifth consecutive 400 race by nearly one second over Britain’s Roger Black (43.49 to 44.41). The 200 meters was expected to be a closer competition but Johnson made that one look easy, too, running a world record of 19.32 to make history as the first male to complete the 200/400 double in the Olympics. Johnson slightly injured himself running the 19.32 and ended up scratching from the 4X400 meter relay, thus denying himself a chance at a third gold medal at the 1996 Olympics.

Marie-Jose Perec (France), 1996 Olympics – 200, 400

Much less hyped than Johnson’s 200/400 double at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta was Marie-Jose Parec’s attempt to win the same double. Parec’s better event was the 400 meters as she was the 1991 and 1993 World Champion and 1992 Olympic Champion. It came as no surprise when Perec defended her title in the 400 (48.25), becoming the first athlete, male or female, to win the 400 in back-to-back Olympics. The 200 meters was going to be a bigger challenge for Perec, who only decided to compete in both events a few weeks before the Games. Fifteen minutes before Johnson completed his 200/400 double, Perec completed her double, winning the 200 in 22.12.

Allyson Felix

Now back to Allyson Felix, whose announcement that she will attempt the 200/400 double at the 2011 World Championships in Daegu is what sparked me to create this list of successful doubles. The double will be a challenge. Not counting relay races (and Felix is in the USA relay pool for both the 4X100 and 4X400), Felix will need to run six races in the span of seven days. The 400 is first and she will have a heat on August 27, a semi-final on August 28, and then the 400 final on August 29. She would then have two days off before starting the 200. Felix is seeking a fourth consecutive world championship gold in the 200, having won in 2005 (Helsinki), 2007 (Osaka), and 2009 (Berlin). She will have two races (heat in the morning and semi-final in the evening) on September 1 and then the 200 final on September 2. Should she be selected to run in the relay finals, the 4X400 meter relay is September 3 and the 4X100 meter relay is September 4.


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