LONDON – For Allyson Felix, two silvers finally added up to gold.
Three times a world champion in the 200 meters, Felix was runner-up twice to Veronica Campbell-Brown of Jamaica at the Olympic Games, first in 2004 and then in 2008.
“I definitely had good moments, but the moments that motivated me the most were losing on the biggest stage and never forgetting that feeling,” Felix said.
On Wednesday, she finally crossed the Olympic finish line first in her favorite race. Felix’s gold was part of a seven-medal day on the track for Team USA, with 110-meter hurdler Aries Merritt and long jumper Brittney Reese also reaching the top step of the victory podium. The track and field medal haul helped Team USA to pass China for the lead in the overall medal count.
It was the biggest one-day Olympic medal haul for the United States since winning nine medals on Aug. 6, 1992, in Barcelona. In 90 minutes, Team USA won three of four possible golds and seven of 12 possible overall medals.
The American women have won 11 track and field medals so far in these Games, marking their second-highest Olympic total in history, behind only the boycotted Los Angeles 1984 Olympic Games, when American women won 16 medals.
With the United States having won 20 medals overall and four days to go, USA Track and Field’s 30-medal goal is within reach. And decathletes Ashton Eaton and Trey Hardee are likely to add two more medals Thursday. Eaton leads the decathlon standings by 220 points over Hardee after competing in the first five events Wednesday.
Felix became the first U.S. woman to win the gold in the 200 since Gwen Torrence in 1992. With a time of 21.88, she finished comfortably ahead of Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, the 100-meter champion from Jamaica, who took silver with a personal-best time of 22.09 seconds.
Carmelita Jeter took the bronze in 22.14 seconds which, combined with her silver medal in the 100, made her the first U.S. double medalist on the track. She is also the first American woman to win Olympic medals in the 100 and 200 since Florence Griffith Joyner in 1988.
Campbell-Brown, who was hoping to become the first athlete to defend a title on the track twice, was fourth in 22.38 seconds, edging Sanya Richards-Ross, the reigning Olympic 400-meter champion, by .01.
“I was just so happy and proud of myself to get back on that podium,” Jeter said. “This is my first Olympic Games. I was very excited for Allyson to get her gold medal. I can’t even complain right now; we have two medals and we still have the 4 x 100 relay, so I’m excited.”
Team USA also got two medals in both the 110-meter hurdles and the long jump, with Jason Richardson and Janay DeLoach both earning bronze.
The United States regained its dominance in the high hurdles, with Merritt the first American to win since Allen Johnson in 1996. The United States now has won 19 gold, 20 silver and 17 bronze medals in the men’s 110m hurdles, with the next closest country Cuba with five medals.
Merritt’s time was a personal best of 12.92 seconds, after three times running 12.93 this season, while Richardson, the world champion, was timed in 13.04.
Dayron Robles of Cuba, the defending champion and world-record holder, was sandwiched between Merritt and Richardson on the track, but pulled up with an injury at the sixth hurdle.
“I had a pretty decent start and then just tried to keep my momentum building,” Merritt said. “Halfway through, I heard this grimace, this loud yell, but I just kept going.”
A former world junior champion, Merritt, 27, of Marietta, Ga., had been overshadowed by other hurdlers until this year.
“Everyone has their moment when they’re sizzling and they’re on fire,” said Merritt, who won the world indoor title in the 60-meter hurdles earlier this year. “This time it was me.”
Reese, 25, of Gulfport, Miss., fouled on all but two of her six jumps, but her second jump of 23 feet, 4 ¼ inches was enough to win. Her fifth jump was also legal, but not quite 22 feet.
“I wasn’t paying attention because I was cheering for Allyson,” she said. Realizing the clock was ticking down, Reese had to hurry up.
“I feel like we have a lot of surprise medalists,” she said, “and I think we’re right ahead of schedule and 30 medals is right on our way.”
Felix, who has won eight world championship gold medals (the most by an American woman), used to say that she would give up all of those medals for an individual Olympic gold.
“Now I am able to say I embrace that journey, I embrace the defeats,” said Felix, 26, of Los Angeles, who also won a gold in the 4 x 400-meter relay in Beijing. “That’s what pushed me all those years. It made tonight very, very sweet.”
After being involved in the controversial third-place tie in the 100-meter dash at the U.S. Olympic Trials — with training mate Jeneba Tarmoh conceding the spot to her — Felix said finishing fifth in the Olympic 100 with a personal best of 10.89 seconds helped her in the 200.
“Going back to the 100 made me real aggressive,” said Felix, who doubled in the 200 and 400 at the 2011 World Championships, earning silver and bronze medals.
Felix did not compete in the 400 in London.
The 200-meter field was so loaded that Fraser-Pryce said, “If they put a 200 field like that together again, I would never run.”
Felix surged ahead of the Jamaican on the homestretch and never let up.
“I didn’t have any idea of where everyone was,” she said. “I just wanted to just lean for that line. I just dove and that’s when I had that moment of, ‘Thank you, Lord’ for having it come together. And I don’t think I’ve stopped smiling since.”
Karen Rosen is a freelance contributor for TeamUSA.org. This story was not subject to the approval of any National Governing Bodies.