Don't succumb to quick fixes: Allyson Felix

There were huge smiles all around as Olympic sprint champion Allyson Felix took a "selfie" with several Singaporean students on Saturday.

The American later posted the heartwarming photo on her Twitter account, and said: "It's an honour and a special responsibility to be a role model.

"I have a passion for kids. Anytime I can be hands-on, I want to talk to them and relate to them."

And she feels that such a passion to be a clean role model is necessary to combat the spectre of drug-taking in athletics to enhance performance.

Said the reigning Olympic 200m champion, who is in Singapore at the invitation of sports apparel giant Nike: "Anytime when you have anyone who has been caught doping, it is unfortunate and it sets our sport back.

"But I just try to keep a positive light on our sport and be a role model to teach children that is not the way to go."

Indeed, the sport had taken a hit in recent months when Jamaican sprinters Asafa Powell, Veronica Campbell-Brown and Sherone Simpson all failed drug tests.

A verdict on a World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) audit on the island's anti-doping credibility is expected in the middle of this month.

Felix, whose image has never been tainted by performance-enhancing substances, told The Sunday Times: "It is a difficult process (to catch drug cheats).

"We really have to rely on the authorities that are there - Usada (US Anti-Doping Agency) in the case of America and, overseas, Wada.

"We have to trust that they are doing all that they can to catch people. And seeing people get caught is saying that we are on the right path."

The 27-year-old, who won three other Olympic golds (4x100m and 4x400m in London last year and 4x400m in Beijing in 2008), will flag off 20,000 runners at this morning's Nike We Run SG at the Formula One Pit Building.

In a candid and light-hearted exchange with the students at the Nike store in Raffles City Saturday morning, she shared that during the athletics season, she trains six days a week, five hours daily, with three hours on the track and the rest on strengthening her muscles in the gym.

The 200m specialist gave a sheepish smile when she disclosed her weakness for Ben & Jerry's oatmeal cookie chunk ice-cream.

Felix, who wants to defend her 200m crown at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, hopes that her status as an Olympic champion can influence and inspire the next generation of athletes.

Bursting onto the scene as an 18-year-old at the 2004 Athens Olympics, she won the 200m silver in two consecutive Games, beaten by Campbell-Brown in both instances.

Last year, she finally stood tallest on the podium, clocking in first at 21.88sec.

While she may be a sprinter, she believes that the road to an Olympic gold is a marathon, and that is what she wants to impart to youngsters in her message.

She said: "In this day and time, it is all about doing well instantly.

"I want to tell them to be patient, to enjoy the journey. That is an important lesson to pass on."

meng@sph.com.sg

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