Headline sprinters Usain Bolt and Tyson Gay, citing injury, both have withdrawn from Saturday's sixth annual Grand Prix international meet on Randalls Island. But it could be said that those fellows already warmed up the Icahn Stadium track for women's 200-meter rivals Allyson Felix and Veronica Campbell-Brown.
Gay's 9.76 100 at Icahn in 2007 would have been a world record except for a slightly excessive tail wind and Bolt's 9.72 in '08 was the best-ever at the time. Gay ran a 19.58 in last year's 200 meters that was the third fastest in history at the time.
Yes, Felix confirmed Friday, those smoking drag races are evidence not just of fast people but of a fast track. "Definitely," she said. "I watched Tyson run that really fast 200. It's the surface, and the competition and the conditions."
As with Gay and Bolt, Felix vs. Campbell-Brown not only is a match of the best at their distance but also the latest in a series of delightful U.S.-Jamaica sprint duels, and will play out before a sellout crowd (just short of 13,000) guaranteed to feature a huge contingent of Jamaicans.
"All those Caribbean fans will be pulling for her," Felix acknowledged. "But the Jamaicans are actually nice to me, too."
Felix, a 24-year-old Californian, calls the rivalry with the 28-year-old Campbell-Brown "great for the sport" and noted that the two often have been thrown together in interview and appearance situations. "We're friendly. We're both really strong Christians," she said, "and I think that helps us both see the bigger picture beyond winning."
They have battled each other eight previous times in the 200, with Campbell-Brown's only two victories coming in the highest-profile situations: Campbell-Brown won the 2004 and 2008 Olympic gold medals, with Felix second each time. (When Felix won the 2007 and 2009 world championships, Campbell-Brown was second.)
"It's nothing to do with the Olympics," Felix said. "Both times she beat me, she just flat outran me, but I've run some of my fastest times against her. We bring out the best in each other. I think, when you run against each other for so long, you can't help but respect someone like that.
"We're different. She's speed and I'm more endurance. She's very powerful; I'm powerful, but not as much. I'm longer and more slender. She needs to get out first against me, and she's a tremendous competitor."
They do not - as some male sprinters are known to do - "talk trash," Felix said. "Veronica's a quiet girl, and I like to focus on what I'm doing. But we're not exactly going to the line holding hands."