Allyson Felix feels ‘sense of fulfillment’ after becoming most decorated US track Olympian

Stephanie Guerilus 

Allyson Felix overcame the odds to make it to the Tokyo Olympics. Once there, she sprinted into the record books as the greatest of all time.

Felix added a bronze and gold medals in back-to-back races to her already vast collection during her fifth appearance at the recent Olympics in Japan. She earned her 11th medal during her last competition—gold for the U.S. women’s 4×400 meter relay team—and stood at the podium as the most decorated U.S.  track and field athlete, surpassing even the illustrious Carl Lewis who has 10.

“I stumbled into track and field as a teenager and never had aspirations to go to the Olympics or anything,” Felix tells theGrio.

“To be at this point in my career, it’s even a bit overwhelming for me. So, to be mentioned with just some of the greats is just really amazing and I just feel super honored.”

Felix made her Olympics debut in 2004 during the Athens games at the tender age of 18. She won the first of her medals there—a silver in the 200 meters. Gold was draped around her neck for the first time during the Beijing Olympics in 2008, setting course a career that would see her compete in London and Rio as a marquee runner that culminated in her record-breaking performance in Tokyo.

All she’s done is win and dominate for so long. Felix, 35, is “at peace” with all that she’s accomplished.

“I’m so grateful,” Felix maintains.

“On the Olympic stage, there’s really nothing that I left that I didn’t get to do or didn’t get to experience. [It’s] just a sense of fulfillment and I think that the sport is in really great hands.”

Felix triumphed in her last run on the global Olympic stage in her Saysh Ones, sneakers from her lifestyle brand. It’s a flex she describes as being a personal favorite.

“I think the proudest moment of my Olympic Games was being able to compete in my own shoe for my own brand. That was just icing on the cake,” she explains.

Allyson Felix
Allyson Felix of Team USA reacts after winning the bronze medal in the Women’s 400m Final on day fourteen of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Olympic Stadium on August 06, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan.

Her moment of victory was ultimately bittersweet as it was without the benefit of roaring crowds due to COVID-19 restrictions, which banned spectators from the sporting event. The pandemic altered more than just how fans appreciated the competition. It took a toll on athletes, such as Felix, who had to train against the backdrop of the summer games being delayed by a year.

Felix and other athletes are featured in the original content series BD On Location that put a spotlight on how organizations handled the pandemic, including COVID-19 testing with the BD VeritorTM Plus System. Felix is in the premiere episode.

“The series is really great [way] to be able to show that insight of what it looks like getting back to somewhat normal and being able to just have full confidence,” she says.

“That we’re taking all the steps in the protocol to be as safe as possible really allowed me to be able to focus on my competitions and preparing, and ultimately led to a successful Olympic Games.”

Above all, Felix credits her family, which now includes her 2-year-old daughter Camryn, for being at the core of her support. She and her husband, hurdler Kenneth Ferguson, welcomed Camryn in 2018 after a difficult pregnancy that saw Felix diagnosed with severe preeclampsia.

Felix had to undergo an emergency C-section at 32 weeks, and Camryn would spend a month in the newborn intensive care unit.

The traumatic pregnancy and lingering effects compelled Felix into advocacy, especially in the plight for Black mortality rates. The track superstar spoke before Congress in 2019. Felix was breastfeeding and training, but was told her prowess on the track would no longer be as potent, due the pregnancy. Cynics and some of Felix’s sponsors underestimated her.

In a 2019 New York Times op-ed, she held Nike to account after the Swoosh wanted to pay her 70% less than what she’d earned before becoming a mother.

Nike reversed course after the backlash and pledged to guarantee a pregnant athlete’s pay and bonuses.

“I was terrified to speak out and I was terrified to share my story. But when I did, I heard from so many women across all industries about their own stories and how they could relate to me. And once I felt that, I just knew that it wasn’t just about me,” she remembers.

“I think being the mom of a girl, a daughter, I thought about her and the world that she’s going to grow up in. I don’t want her to have these same battles.”

Felix further committed to her efforts by partnering with Athleta and the Women’s Sports Foundation. The Power of She Fund: Child Care Grants covered the childcare costs of female athletes with children.

The next lap of her journey has only just begun.

“I’m super excited to continue on with Saysh and to bring that to women and so that’s on the horizon. I still have a few more competitions this season that I’m gearing up for,” she shares.