Fall 2021 SS Magazine

U.S. sprinter Allyson Felix defies odds, prepares for fifth and final Olympics

Allyson Felix vowed to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics despite enduring a challenging birth of her daughter in 2018 that required a month in the neonatal intensive care unit.

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It required an emergency C-section at 32 weeks, and she’s been open about how difficult it was to recover and return to her sport of track. But on June 20, at 35 years old, Felix defeated any doubts and qualified for her fifth Olympic Games by finishing second in the 400 meters at the U.S. Track & Field Olympic Trials in Eugene, Oregon.

She also attempted to qualify in the 200m — her gold-medal event at the 2012 Olympics — on Saturday, but finished fifth in the final. She ran a season-best time of 22.11 seconds, but only the top three finishers qualify for the Olympics.

That race marked her last time running in the Olympic trials, as Felix announced this will be her last Olympic Games.

“I feel a mix of all emotions,” Felix told reporters following Saturday’s race. “I’m real excited obviously to be going to Tokyo. There’s a part of me that’s sad because this has been my life for so long. This is my last time around. I feel sad for that, but also excited for what’s to come.”

In her fifth trip to the Olympics, this summer will be her first as a mother. That moment wasn’t lost on Felix after the 400m race, as her daughter Camryn, 2, cheered her on.

“I just wanted to really show her, no matter what, that you do things with character, integrity, and you don’t give up,” Felix said following the 400. “And to me, whether that was winning, losing, no matter the outcome, I wanted to stay consistent with that. Having her as motivation through these past couple of years has just given me a whole new drive.”

Felix said her decision to start a family with her husband and fellow sprinter, Kenneth Ferguson, at a late stage of her career was a risk, but her faith in God has taught her to put her trust in Him for control.

“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 2018. “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.”

Felix first broke onto the Olympic scene in 2004 and has since won nine medals, including six golds, during her career. In addition to racing the 400 in Tokyo, she is also expected to participate on the 4x400m relay team, and possibly a new event, the mixed 4x400m relay. She would tie Carl Lewis with a record 10 Olympic medals if she finds herself on a podium in Tokyo.

Regardless of her Olympic outcome, Felix is grateful to share all of this, especially the moment when she qualified for the Games, with her daughter after everything it took to get back to this point.

“Just so much has gone into this moment,” Felix said on 3rd Hour of TODAY last week. “There’s been so much struggle and so much to overcome. So to share that moment with her, it’s pretty indescribable.

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