Fall 2021 SS Magazine

Legendary sprinter Allyson Felix eyes 2020 Tokyo Games after challenging childbirth

Allyson Felix is used to proving people wrong. She was told in high school she was too skinny to run professionally. She was told  after tearing multiple ligaments in a training accident that she wouldn’t be able to qualify for the 2016 Olympics. Throughout her career, Felix has overcome obstacle after obstacle to become the most decorated female track and field athlete of all time, with nine total Olympic medals (six gold, three silver).

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Now, Felix is trying to prove the world wrong again by qualifying for the 2020 Olympics, which would be her fifth Games. The road begins Thursday at the 2019 U.S. Track and Field Championships in Des Moines, Iowa.

Felix is 33 years old and eight months out from the delivery of her first child, Camryn, which wasn’t easy. Felix was diagnosed with a severe case of preeclampsia, leading to her being taken in for an emergency C-section at 32 weeks. Her daughter was born at 3 pounds, 7 ounces, and spent her first month in the NICU. But Camryn is now healthy and accompanying Felix to this week’s national championships.

Felix’s choice to start a family with her husband and fellow sprinter Kenneth Ferguson was a risk. But Felix’s faith in God has taught her that the idea of having control in life is an illusion.

“One of the lessons I’ve learned on this journey is that there’s really only so much of this you can predict, much less control,” Felix told ESPN in December. “By its very nature, pregnancy is about opening yourself and embracing whatever God and this child has in store for you … Having a child felt like I’d be risking my career and disappointing everyone who expected me to always put running first. It’s hard to say why I finally felt ready to start a family. I just know that I was. This is a risk. It could affect how I run in 2019 and 2020. I know it’s going to be tough in a way that I haven’t experienced before.”

For the first time in her career, Felix won’t be competing in the 200m, competing instead in the 400m and team relay races. And she will be competing against the staggeringly deep roster of American women in the 400m. At nationals, the top three in the 400m qualify for the world championships (aside from the already-qualified Phyllis Francis, the defending world champ), and the U.S. had six of the nine fastest women in the world last year — with the four fastest born at least nine years after Felix. Felix ranked 44th overall in previous competitions, but those times came two months into her pregnancy.

Regardless of how she fares, Felix knows God created her to glorify Him through her sport.

“Growing up as a preacher’s kid has really grounded me,” Felix told USA Today. “I’ve grown up with these amazing parents who are hard workers, and they truly live out their faith. They’ve been amazing role models for me. I feel like I really picked up on what they taught me and kept that with me all along in my running and in my career.

“For me, my faith is the reason I run. I definitely feel I have this amazing gift that God has blessed me with, and it’s all about using it to the best of my ability.”

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