“It's hard to imagine what the sport will be like without her ." With these words, BBC sports columnist Miriam Walker-Khan summed up the sports career of Allyson Felix , who has just retired from professional sports.
Felix has won more Olympic medals than any other American track and field athlete in history, and seven of the 11 he has taken home are gold.
Also, he won more medals than anyone in athletics world championships : 19 in five events, 13 of them gold.
“Her style of running like a gazelle has been imposed on the biggest stages time and time again to cement her place in the history books,” wrote Walker-Khan, recalling some of the great rivals that faced her:”
“Her accomplishments are incredible, but they are even more impressive when you consider the caliber of people she has competed with, such as Merlene Ottey, Sanya Richards-Ross, Christine Arron, Carmelita Jeter, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Elaine Thompson-Herah”.
However, as the BBC columnist says, Allyson Felix is more than just an athlete, she is something of a legend…
“Sports careers don't get much better than Felix's, and off the track he has made some significant gains as well, with his activism proving that speaking up can bring about real, tangible change," Walker-Khan wrote.
An amazing race
When Felix first qualified for the World Championship, Hey Ya! by Outkast topped the music charts and “Finding Nemo” was released in the cinema.
It was the year 2003 and at the age of 17 she finished second in the 200 meters in the trials of the American team, which gave her a place in one of the most important events in athletics.
At 18, she won her first Olympic medal - silver in the 200-meter dash in Athens - behind Jamaican Veronica Campbell, setting a junior world record of 22.18 seconds.
A year later, she became the youngest world champion in history by winning the 200 meters in Helsinki, a title she would retain two years later in Osaka.
His first Olympic gold medal would come at the 2008 Beijing Games, in the 400-meter relay.
His first individual Olympic gold would be in his specialty, the 200 meters, in London 2012, where he won two other gold medals in the 4×100 and 4×400 relays.
“We are all familiar – perhaps too familiar – with the term GOAT in sports (“greatest of all times”, the best of all time), but Felix is truly one of the best athletes we have ever seen. But it's not just what she's done on the track that makes her great,” Walker-Khan opined.
The scare of her life
At the end of 2018, in full pregnancy, Allyson Felix was in danger .
A diagnosis of pre-eclampsia, which put both her life and the baby's at risk, forced her to give birth to Camryn eight weeks early.
The athlete's daughter was born in November weighing one kilo and 55 grams. She had to spend her first month in the intensive care unit.
“After living through the scariest two days of my life, I learned that my story was not that unusual. There were others like me, just like me… black like me, healthy like me and trying my best, just like me. And they also faced death like me.”
Preeclampsia is disproportionately prevalent among African-American women in the US, and the experience of such a risky delivery inspired Felix to raise awareness about maternal mortality. In 2019, she spoke in the Congress of her country:
“We have to offer black women more support during their pregnancies. There is a level of racial bias within our healthcare system that is concerning and will be difficult to address, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't.”
After being a mother, her sponsor, Nike, informed her that he was going to pay her 70% less . With the same strength with which she had faced the difficulties of childbirth, the athlete published an opinion piece for the New York Times:
“I have always known that expressing myself could harm my career… but nothing can be changed with silence,” she wrote.
“If we have children, we risk being cut by our sponsors during the pregnancy and after. It is an example of a sports industry in which the rules are still made mostly by and for men.
Three months later, Nike changed its position. In a letter shared by Felix on his social networks, the company promises to “not apply any performance-related reduction” in the event that an athlete becomes pregnant.
After parting ways with Nike, Felix launched his own shoe company.
And he continues to fight for the rights of mothers. This season, it partnered with its new sponsor and a non-profit organization to offer free childcare to athletes, coaches and other participants during the 2022 US trials.
“I'm trying to leave the sport better than I found it, trying to support athletes and women in general and fight for more equality,” she said.
The last medals
Following her experience with pre-eclampsia, Felix told Time magazine that she remembered thinking, “I don't know if I'm going to come back. I don't know if I can."
But less than a year after giving birth, she became the most successful athlete in world championships history by winning two relay golds in Doha.
In 2021 he again proved the skeptics wrong.
After a difficult year in which she struggled to find training tracks due to the coronavirus pandemic, the 35-year-old Felix qualified for the 400m Olympic final in Tokyo but was the second slowest to do so.
Anyone who dared to doubt her was soon silenced as she crossed the finish line in third place, winning a tenth Olympic medal, before adding an eleventh in the relay.
He said goodbye this 2022 before his public in Eugene, Oregon, winning bronze in the 4 × 400 meter mixed relay.
“It was a night that I will remember fondly. I have had very good memories,” she said.
“I know the time has come and these guys will see it through in the future. I am at peace entering this new stage and have enormous gratitude for this sport.”
But by announcing his retirement on Instagram, he made it clear that his days on the track were at an end, but his activism was far from over .
“This season I am running for women. I am running for a better future for my daughter. I introduce myself for you. There will be more information about it, so stay tuned, but I will share a series of announcements that I hope will make the world a better place for women.”