When Bobby Kersee got a phone call last Thursday from Allyson Felix’s dad, among the coach’s first reactions was anguish.
"This cannot be happening,” Kersee said to himself. “This is her legacy year."
Paul Felix had passed on the information that his daughter thought she had broken her leg on a misstep during weight training at a fitness center in west Los Angeles.
Had that been the case, it could have ended – or at least severely compromised – Felix’s chances to enhance one of the most impressive records in track and field history by attempting to win gold medals in the 200 and 400 meters at the upcoming Summer Olympics. Only Valerie Briscoe-Hooks (1984) and Michael Johnson (1996) of the United States and Marie-Jose Perec of France (1996) have achieved that golden double.
After learning the disturbing news, the coach immediately called physical therapist Bob Forster, who has worked with Kersee’s athletes for more than 30 years, and the two headed toward the gym to assess the situation.
Once the injury was determined to be what Kersee said is a grade 2 sprain of the right ankle, he told Felix, “It’s going to be OK.”
It has forced Felix to withdraw from the May 6 Diamond League meet in Doha, Qatar. She was to make her individual-event outdoor season debut there in the 100 meters against Dutchwoman Dafne Schippers, the reigning world champion in the 200 – and also the Olympic favorite at that distance.
“(The injury) is 80 percent better in less than a week,” Kersee said Wednesday night via telephone from New York, where Felix was doing “100 Days Out” from Rio appearances with other likely and already qualified members of the 2016 U.S. Olympic team.
There was no mention of the injury during those appearances. The news came late Wednesday in a release from the Doha meet organizers.
Kersee said Felix, 30, has already returned to training, but he declined to give any specifics of what she is able to do at this point.
Felix, winner of four gold and two silver medals in three Olympic Games, is scheduled to run the 400 meters May 28 at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Ore., where meet organizers have announced a field worthy of an Olympic final.
She is to be back in Eugene for the U.S. Olympic Trials July 1-10, needing a top three finish in the 200 and 400 to earn spots in those events at the Rio Summer Games.
Felix is the reigning world champion in the 400 and, if fully healthy, will be a strong favorite to win that race in Rio, where the schedule was tweaked to give her a chance at the double.