Summer 2024

Sprinter Allyson Felix breaks Usain Bolt record in comeback from difficult pregnancy

With her 12th gold medal at a world championships this past Sunday, Allyson Felix broke a world championship medal record formerly owned by Usain Bolt. She captured gold in the mixed-gender 4x400m relay event, giving her the most gold medals won by any athlete of either gender.

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Felix’s split time of 50.4 seconds combined with Wil London III, Courtney Okolo and Michael Cherry to record a world record of 3:09.34, beating Jamaica by 2.44 seconds. The ongoing 2019 World Athletics Championships in Doha, Qatar, are the first world championships to feature the mixed-gender 4×400, which will make its Olympic debut next year in the 2020 Tokyo Games.

The medal brings Felix’s world championship career total to 17, also a record. And this marked her first gold medal as a mom.

“So special, to have my daughter here watching means the world to me,” Felix told NBC’s Lewis Johnson. “It’s been a crazy year for me.”

That’s because not long ago it was fair to question if Felix would ever race again.

In November 2018, Felix endured the extremely difficult birth of her first child, Camryn. 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, and while both daughter and mother are now fine, there were serious questions whether Felix, at 33 years old, could possibly compete against an extremely deep U.S. women’s roster.

She’s now shown she can indeed compete. Though Felix made the world team only for the relays, her abbreviated season this year is a stepping stone for next year, when she’ll attempt to make her fifth Olympic team. She’ll also aim to break Michael Johnson’s record as the oldest Olympic 400m medalist.

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.”

Regardless of how she fares over the next year, 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 in 2012. “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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