Allyson Felix will bow out of athletics after the world championships in Eugene, Oregon, but the most decorated track star of all time vowed to leave it all out there as her “incredible journey” nears the end.
Felix, 36, has been a mainstay of the US track and field team, making five Olympics, while Eugene will mark her 10th world championships appearance.
During her stellar career, she established herself as the most decorated athlete, male or female, having won 18 world and 13 Olympic medals.
Among that haul was Olympic 200m gold in London in 2012, and three world titles over the same distance and another over 400m.
“I hope that I’ll be remembered as a fierce competitor, but I think more importantly to me is really trying to leave this sports better than I found it,” Felix told reporters in Eugene on Thursday.
“I’m going to take it all in and have fun, leave it all out there. It’s going to be really emotional,” added Felix, who is part of the USA’s mixed relay squad.
“It’s been an incredible journey. I’ve really enjoyed my time over the years. There have been a lot of ups and downs. I love the sport so much, it’s broken my heart many times but I’ve also had many really joyous moments.”
Felix added: “For me it’s completely full circle to be able to come here and end at home, it’s going to be very, very special.
“I’m going to miss it so much but I can’t think of a better way to go out than just with a heart full of gratitude and thankful for all the people who’ve supported me and the teams I’ve been on over the years.”
While Felix’s durability and form ensured she was an ever-present in dominant US relay teams over the years, she has also won plaudits for her advocacy for gender equality.
Felix took part in last year’s pandemic-delayed Tokyo Olympics, where she was part of the gold medal-winning 4x400m relay team, three years after giving birth to daughter Camryn in 2018 after an emergency C-section.
She has since been a vocal advocate for the rights of working mothers and split with long-time sponsors Nike in 2019 after criticising the sporting apparel giant for slashing her pay after she became pregnant.
Felix also teamed up with sponsor Athleta and non-profit group &Mother – co-founded with two-time world champion Alysia Montano – to provide free child care to athletes, coaches and staff at the US championships.
“The past three years have been the most challenging for sure and now as I reflect on those years I can’t believe that I made it through,” Felix said, calling for a “holistic approach” to female athletes.
Her off-track advocacy was not lost on reigning men’s world 200m champion Noah Lyles, who made a gushing tribute to Felix.
Felix, Lyles explained, first popped up on his radar when he and his younger brother Josephus had watched her win gold at the London Olympics.
“I was watching her and she’s the fastest woman in the world,” he said.
“I remember she ran 21 seconds, and at the time my personal best was 22 seconds and it was like ‘dang, this woman’s faster than me!'”
But Lyles also hailed Felix’s handling of the media, her ability to switch events, going from the 200 to 400m, and her outspoken stance against Nike.
“She was going up against Nike, that’s one person against a corporation!” he said.
“I don’t think people understand how big Nike has an influence over the US.
“I mean, there’s a firm grasp, and for one Black woman to go up against that and speak their mind and speak for what they believe is right, even have the courage to try, is something I feel young peple should be watching for years to come.”
The world of athletics will surely miss the presence of the erudite Felix, who offered up a return-to-basics approach to increase the popularity of track and field in the United States where the sport is dwarfed by American football, basketball and baseball.
“We’ve got to get out there and really keep kids engaged, enjoying the sport and having fun, and giving a product that’s exciting…”