Allyson Felix: A Legend On and Off the Track
By: Ethan Tu
Many people consider Allyson Felix as the “goat” of women's track and field – in league with big names like Usain Bolt. She deserves that title not only because of her record-breaking track speed, but also because of her feats off the field.
In 2003, at the young age of 17, Felix became a national star after finishing second in the 200-meter at the US trials, qualifying for her first World Championships. Now, two medal-filled decades later, she announces her retirement. Last week she competed in front of a home crowd for the last time, winning bronze as part of the 4x400 mixed relay.
After the relay, she said “it was a night I will cherish. I’ve had such good memories. I know it is time and these guys will carry it on into the future. I am at peace stepping into this next stage and have tremendous gratitude for this sport.”
Felix’s 20-year track career has cemented her place in the history books. With 11 medals, seven of which were gold, Felix has won more Olympic medals than any other American track-and-field athlete in history.
Towards the end of her phenomenal track career in November of 2018, Felix gave birth to her daughter Camryn. Camryn was born eight weeks early because Felix had pre-eclampsia, a life-threatening medical condition for her and her baby.
After living through this experience, she spoke to the US Congress in 2019 to raise awareness for maternal mortality. She said “we need to provide women of color with more support during their pregnancies. There's a level of racial bias within our healthcare system that is troubling and will be difficult to tackle, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't.”
Felix also uses her voice and platform to talk about women’s rights. In 2019, she wrote an article for the New York Times explaining that her sponsor, Nike, wanted to pay her 70% less after she became a mother (BBC). It worked. Three months later Nike changed its stance on maternity pay and promised not to apply any performance-related salary reductions for 18 consecutive months, starting 18 months before the due date of pregnant athletes (BBC).
“I'm trying to leave the sport better than I found it, trying to support female athletes and women in general and fight for more equality,” she said. After announcing her retirement in April earlier this year, Felix made it clear she would continue using her voice to advocate for things she believes in.
Her breathtaking speed and accomplishments outside of the track makes her a role model for many people. Noah Lyles, Felix’s US teammate and the world champion in the 200-meter race, said he looked up to Felix while growing up.