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Number 10: Five-time Olympian Allyson Felix Wins Bronze in 400 at Age 35

By Karen Rosen | Aug. 06, 2021, 1:09 p.m. (ET)

Allyson Felix at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Aug. 6, 2021 in Tokyo. 

 

TOKYO – Coming home in her last individual Olympic race, Allyson Felix knew just what she had to do.

“Fight. Dig,” she said.

The five-time Olympian gave everything she had to cross the finish line in the women’s 400 meters, then lay on her back on the track in sheer exhaustion.

And Felix felt something else: “Just joy.”

She won her 10th Olympic medal Friday at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, her first bronze to go along with six golds and three silvers.

“I feel like all the other ones I was really just so focused on the performance,” Felix said, “and this one, it’s so much bigger than that. I was out there running, but I felt like I was a representation for so much more than just trying to get down the track.”

Unlike her first four Olympic Games, Felix said, “Nobody thought I was going to be here.”

Since giving birth to her daughter Camryn after a difficult delivery in November 2018, the 35-year-old has worked relentlessly to regain her fitness while becoming an advocate for mothers in sports. 

Felix didn’t just fight to get back to the Olympic Games; she fought to get back to feeling like herself again.

And yet as a fan of track and field, Felix said, “I hear the chatter. I think people thought it was a long shot for me to even be on the U.S. team and then I knew I wasn’t a pick for the medals, but just give me a shot.”

She got that shot when she qualified second in the Olympic Trials behind Quanera Hayes.

Yet even after Felix reached the Olympic final, the odds were stacked against her. Felix was in Lane 9, which is so far outside she’d feel like she was running her race alone. Felix wouldn’t be able to see the other runners until they rounded the final curve.

When she did, she knew a medal was within her grasp. “I always believe in myself, “ Felix said.

Shaunae Miller-Uibo of the Bahamas dominated the race, winning by almost a second with a personal best of 48.36 seconds. She became only the second woman in history to win two 400-meter titles in a row, joining Marie-Jose Perec of France (1992-96). And in contrast to 2016, when Miller Uibo edged Felix, this time she didn’t have to dive at the line.

Marileidy Paulino of Dominican Republic set a national record of 49.20 to win the silver medal.

Felix didn’t set any records with her time of 49.46 seconds, the fastest she’s run since posting her personal best of 49.26 seconds in 2015, but it cemented her legacy.

 

 


Felix is now the most decorated female track and field athlete in Olympic history. She came into Tokyo needing just one medal to break a tie with Merlene Ottey of Jamaica. She also has now tied Carl Lewis for most medals by a Team USA track and field athlete, and could move ahead of him on Saturday if she runs a leg on the women’s 4 x 400-meter relay and wins another medal.

“I hope so,” Felix said of her chances of running on the relay, knowing full well that she’s an obvious choice.

Felix has been an Olympian for nearly half of her life. She was only 18 when she won her first Olympic medal in 2004, a silver in the 200 meters. 

“I was a teenager and didn’t know what to expect and everything was new and I evolved along the way,” she said.

Felix won another silver in 2008 in the 200, then captured the gold in 2012. Switching to the 400, she earned the silver in 2016.

The other five gold medals came on relays: the 4 x 400 in 2008, and both the 4 x 100 and 4 x 400 in London as well as Rio.

“I’m very grateful for everyone who’s come before me,” said Felix, who has also won a record 17 world championships medals, including 12 golds. “I have so much respect and admiration. I wouldn’t be here without those who paved the way, and I’m just grateful for my own journey. I love the sport and it’s been so good to me.”

She’s grown up in the sport and feels like a lot of people have grown up with her.

 

Allyson Felix competes at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Aug. 6, 2021 in Tokyo.

 

Gabby Thomas, who anchored the Team USA women’s 4 x 100-meter relay to the silver medal, said Felix has inspired the next generation of sprinters.

“I think her legacy is just showing everyone that you can do what you want to do,” Thomas said. “She’s had such a long career. She hasn’t let anything stop her, whether it be her age, the number of races she’s running, who’s lining up next to her, who might be testing positive  - she never let any of that get to her, even now being a mother. So just her grace and poise and commitment to excellence is such an inspiration for everyone.”

As the track portion of the Olympics started, Felix said putting her on the 4 x 400-meter mixed relay -  which won the bronze medal - was never discussed even though it was considered a likely medal. Felix just focused on her individual race.

Before the final on Friday night, Felix said she thought about what she would tell her daughter about her Olympic career when she is old enough to understand.

“I think the biggest thing I want her to know,” Felix said, “is that when you go out and you do something, you do it with character and you do it with integrity and you do it to the best of your ability. And that’s all anybody can ask of you. If you do that, you’re proud of that and that’s enough.”

She had her game face on when walked onto the Olympic Stadium track, briskly walking past the medalists in the Olympic men’s 400 meters who were posing for photos on the podium following their award ceremony.

When the gun went off, Felix got out well, and then poured it on. 

“I’m a fighter,” she said.

Felix edged Stephenie Ann McPherson by .15, and the Jamaican runner was inconsolable, screaming with anguish after the race. Hayes finished seventh with a time of 50.88 seconds.

After Felix lay on the track for several minutes, she got up and did something she’s done nine times before: She went to get an American flag from someone in the stands. But Felix walked very slowly and after draping the flag around her shoulders, she sat down in a convenient chair and sipped some water.

Felix eventually walked off the track and out of sight while Miller-Uebo twirled with her shoes tied around her neck.

“The 400, you know, it just does it to you,” Felix said. “Well, for me. I’m always laid out. I felt like I couldn’t really express how I felt because I was just so tired.”

She said that after losing races it’s usually hard for her to feel joy. That wasn’t the case this time.

“This one is very different and it’s very special and it just took a lot to get here,” said Felix, who shattered expectations when she made the world championships team in 2019 several months after having her baby, earning gold medals on the 4 x 400 relay and on the mixed relay.

Because of Covid-19 restrictions, Camryn and Felix’s husband had to stay home from Tokyo. This is the longest stretch Felix has been away from her daughter.

“It’s been really challenging,” she said. “Honestly, this Olympics is unlike any others. Some of the hard moments, you’re just by yourself and so I’ve tried to stay connected. I’m calling, but it’s just different. I can’t wait to get home. I’m counting the days - they’re very few now.”

Felix did get to see Cammy on FaceTime after the race. “I’m surprised that she was awake,” Felix said. “She should have been asleep, but we’ll deal with that later.”

After all, when her Olympics are over, Felix is truly coming home. 

 

Team USA Takes Silver in Women’s 4x100-meter Freestyle Relay


Jamaica was the overwhelming favorite in the 4 x 100-meter freestyle relay given that the team included all three medalists in the 100 meters: Thompson-Herah, Fraser-Pryce and Shericka Jackson.

The Jamaicans set a national record of 41.02 seconds and Team USA was next at 41.45 seconds. Javianne Oliver led off for the Americans, followed by Teahna Daniels, Jenna Prandini and Thomas.

Unfortunately, Team USA’s men’s team did not qualify for the final. 

“I feel like we are so young and we come from great college programs,” said  Daniels, “so 4 x 1 is just like … money.”

Prandini added that she thinks the team has great chemistry together. “And we’re really confident and comfortable with each other, “ she said. “We knew that whatever team we put out here we were going to get the stick around.”

Added Thomas: “We trusted each other, we worked hard together and that’s what it came down to.”

In the longest women’s event of the day, the 20K walk, Robyn Stevens of Team USA placed 33rd.

Want to follow Team USA athletes during the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020? Visit TeamUSA.org/Tokyo2020 to view the medal table, results and competition schedule.

Karen Rosen

Karen Rosen has covered every Summer and Winter Olympic Games since 1992 for newspapers, magazines and websites. Based in Atlanta, she has contributed to TeamUSA.org since 2009.

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