After posting six gold medal performances, including the sweep of both relays, at Daegu in 2011, the U.S. women’s track and field team fell to two at the 2013 IAAF World Championships in Moscow – Brittney Reese in the long jump and Brianna Rollins in the 100 hurdles. Entering the Beijing World Championships, which begin Saturday with the shot put and first day of the heptathlon, the Americans are seeking a return to the top of the podium.
“We had an excellent time in Narita,” said head coach Delethea Quarles, referring to the Japanese city where training camp was held last week. “We felt very capable everything that had to happen, happened. We want to continue our legacy in the World Championships and increase our overall medal count.”
Allyson Felix already owns more World Championship gold medals than any other woman with eight, and four more of any color will tie former Jamaican and Slovenian sprinter Merlene Ottey for the most all time. The 29-year-old won the 200 meters in the 2005, 2007 and 2009 World Championships, and in 2011 won bronze, while moving up to silver in the 400. She won the 200 gold medal in the London Olympics, before pulling a hamstring in the final of that event in Moscow at 2013. Now, she is back to prove herself and is also in the mix for the 4-by-400 relay.
“I feel grateful to be back at the World Championships,” Felix said. “I’m excited about the 400, it’s something different. I felt I was in the shape I could do both, but we looked back at what I was able to do, and it was time to step up. The 100 gives me the speed to run the 200, and the 400 helps with the endurance. I’m not as experienced in the 400, and it doesn’t come as natural, so it’s a challenge.”
Felix’s 21.98 in the 200 is the fastest in the world this season, and her 50.05 in the 400 is fourth, with teammate Francena McCorory on top at 49.83 seconds. Candyce McGrone of the U.S. is second in the 200 at 22.08 seconds. Two-time defending Olympic champion Shelly-Ann Fraser Pryce of Jamaica has the top time in the 100 meters in 2015 at 22.37 seconds, and she has won the world title two of the past three occurrences.
American Jenny Simpson, who turns 29 on Aug. 23, won the 1,500 meters at the 2011 Daegu World Championships and fell to silver in 2013 despite shaving off three seconds. Genzebe Dibaba of Ethiopia, Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands and teammate Shannon Rowbury are the only three to run faster than her this season.
“The last two years in my career have been ones of consistency,” Simpson said. “That’s what I’m looking for here. The 1,500 is really hot right now, the women every year keep raising the bar. I hardly ever come into the races as a favorite. The best thing to do is focus on your preparation.”
The first medal event for the women will be in the shot put, where American Michelle Carter (fourth in 2013) owns the longest distance in the world this year at 20.02 meters and Jeneva Stevens is fifth. Jillian Camarena-Williams, who trains in Tucson, won the bronze medal at Daegu in 2011. Valerie Adams of New Zealand is the four-time defending champion in the event and won the past two Olympic gold medals, but she is recovering from knee surgery.