Allyson Felix Has Joy, and a Tenth Olympic Medal.
TOKYO – Allyson Felix stayed on the track for a long time on Friday night after completing the 400-meter race.
She fell onto her back after looking at the dash and seeing her name behind Shaunae Miller-Uibo from the Bahamas and Marileidy Paulino from the Dominican Republic.
Allyson Felix, lane 9, third place, 49.46.
She had. Ten Olympic medals.
When asked if her reaction – lying on the runway, staring at the sky – was exhaustion or emotion, she replied that it was “probably a combination”.
She has competed in so many 400 meter races in so many places for so many years. It still hurts, she said. On Friday, the pain was diluted by the joy.
She had equaled Carl Lewis as America’s most decorated athlete in track and field. She had her second fastest time in history, faster than her silver medal at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
And she had done it on her terms: as a mother, activist and entrepreneur.
Before these Games, with nine Olympic medals (six gold and three silver), Felix was already tied with Jamaican sprinter Merlene Ottey as the most decorated Olympian in athletics. She also has 18 world championship medals, including 13 gold.
But this Olympic place – his fifth – meant something quite different.
“This one is so different,” she said, her first bronze medal around her neck. “It’s hard to describe because I feel like everyone else, I was really so focused on performance. And this one, he’s so much bigger than that.
She had heard the skeptics, the skeptics. A 35-year-old man was unable to return from an emergency Caesarean and regain championship form. And think she might qualify for the US Olympic team again? That she would even consider herself a contender for a medal at the 2020 Games?
Even his placement on the track, throughout lane 9, as one of the slowest automatic qualifiers in the semi-finals, was an indication of his status as an underdog.
“No one thought I was going to be here,” she said, making exceptions for her family and her trainer, Bobby Kersee. “I’m a fighter. The last few years that’s what I’ve been doing. I just needed a chance.
And as she fought for more chances for herself, she opened the doors for future generations of female athletes.
After giving birth to her daughter at 32 weeks, she shared her story widely, traveling to Congress to discuss racial disparities in maternal mortality. She called out Nike for the way she treated pregnant athletes and pushed for brands to provide protection for those looking to start a family.
She came to these Athleta-sponsored Games wearing Saysh spikes, a business she started weeks before the Games. His last races at the Olympics were literally in his own shoes.
And she has come to Tokyo to support other Olympian mothers, having recently announced a partnership with Athleta and the Women’s Sports Foundation that will provide grants to female athletes with children. The scholarship has previously been awarded to Gwen Berry, a hammer thrower, and Aliphine Tuliamuk, an American marathoner.
“Obviously, we are working to change industry standards,” Felix said. “I hope I have drawn attention to these things. This is what I tried to do.
As she was describing her ongoing plea, she was interrupted by the Jamaica Women’s 4x100m Relay Team. They had just won gold. But they also wanted to see Felix and celebrate her.
It took a long time to get here, said beaming Felix, describing a FaceTime conversation with his daughter, Cammy, shortly after the race. Cammy begins to understand everything: “Mum is at work” or “Mum is running”. As Felix FaceTimed Her Family, She Realized Her Daughter Should Have Been Sleeping. “We will deal with this later,” she said.
Before the race, she said, she had thought about what she would say to her daughter about the Olympics whenever she was old enough to figure it out.
“The most important thing I want her to know is when you go out and do something, you do it with character and you do it with integrity, and you do it to the best of your ability,” she declared. “That’s all anyone can ask of you. And if you do that, you’re proud of it and that’s enough. “
She can’t wait to get home and is counting the days until she can see her family again.
But Felix may have one more stroke in her. She is expected to join the US 4×400-meter relay on Saturday and possibly add one more medal to the collection.
But on Friday night, she focused on her accomplishment. She had come back for another Olympic cycle just as she wanted.
Gone are the days when anything other than a gold medal brought tears and disappointment.
“I thought about it before,” she said, smiling. “It’s really hard for me when I’m not winning to still have joy.
“Tonight I have joy.”
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