Allyson Felix has been arguably the best U.S. female track and field athlete since the turn of the century, but she only earned one gold in her first two trips to the Olympic Games in 2004 and 2008. Her third Games proved to be her big breakthrough, as she earned three golds in London, more than any other female track and field athlete.
Felix failed to medal in the 100-meter dash, but her Olympic glory began in the 200-meter dash. She won her first-ever individual gold as the only woman to break 22 seconds in this year's 200 final with a time of 21.88.
Felix's additional contributions to both U.S. relay teams established her as the best female track athlete of the London Games.
First, on Friday, Felix ran the third leg on the U.S. 4x100-meter relay team. That team not only won gold, but broke the world-record by a drastic progression of .55 seconds, with a best-ever time of 40.82 seconds. Then, as the second leg of the 4x400-meter relay team on Saturday, Felix led her team to another gold, running an incredibly fast split of 47.8 seconds.
Three gold medals in a single Games for a track and field athlete is fantastic enough, but Felix’s times bring even greater perspective to her London performance. She is the fourth-fastest 200 runner in world history, and her time in London was the third-fastest of her career.
Felix now holds a spot in the world-record books for her place on the gold-medal-winning 4x100 team, and additionally, her 4x400 split would rank as the second-fastest 400 time in history. While comparing the second leg of a relay to an open race is an inaccurate comparison, due to the reaction time of reacting to a starter’s gun in an open race, the speed of her lap was still an incredible time.
Jamaican men’s sprinter Usain Bolt was the only other track and field athlete of either gender to win three golds in London. Felix is also the first female athlete from any nation to win three track and field golds in a single Games since another legendary U.S. sprinter, Florence Griffith-Joyner, did so in 1988.
Who is the best U.S. female sprinter of the past 25 years?
No other female track and field athlete made as much of a mark on the London Games as Felix did. She won the most golds of any female track and field athlete, and she was part of the only women’s track and field world record set at the 2012 Games.
At only 26 years old, chances are very good that Felix will return to compete in the 2016 Rio Games. Even if she does not, she has carved a great legacy for herself as one of the great female sprinters in U.S. track and field history. She cemented that legacy with the standout performance among women’s track and field athletes of the 2012 Games.
Dan Hope is a Bleacher Report Featured Columnist covering the 2012 Olympic Games. Follow him on Twitter @Dan_Hope.