• Monday, June 24, 2024
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Allyson Felix’s ‘chicken legs’ carry her to fame on Olympics tracks

Allyson Felix

Nicknamed “Chicken Legs” for her lanky physique, Allyson Felix has made history in what will almost certainly be her last Olympic race. The sprinter earned a gold medal in the 4-x-400 meter relay Saturday.

The 11th career medal which includes seven gold, three silver and one bronze gave the 35year old athlete more medals than any American in track and field history. She already set the record one day earlier for the most medals by a woman in Olympic track and field history.

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“The first was a very, very long time ago [in Athens 2004] when everything was new,” the 35-year-old Felix told reporters. “And this one everything is different but in a good way. I am so pleased it was running with these amazing women.”

Preparations for Tokyo 2020 were by no means smooth for Felix. In November 2018, she struggled with preeclampsia and had an emergency C-section at 32 weeks to deliver her daughter Camryn.

Like many other athletes, Felix was also forced to adapt her training schedule, practising on empty soccer fields and beaches during the initial stages of the pandemic in 2020.

Early Life

Olympic gold medalist and famed sprinter Allyson Felix was born on November 18, 1985, in Los Angeles, California. Felix was raised a devout Christian by her father, an ordained minister, and her mother, a local elementary school teacher. Her older brother, Wes Felix, is also a sprinter.

Athletically gifted from a young age, Felix began playing basketball as a kid. She earned the nickname “Chicken Legs” for her lanky physique.

In order to demonstrate her physical strength, the high school freshman went out for the track team. She excelled from the start, within a year finishing seventh in the 200-meter dash at the CIF California State Meet, and eventually becoming a five-time winner.

In 2003, Track and Field News named Felix its national girls “High School Athlete of the Year.” Soon after, as a high school senior, she finished second in the 200 at the U.S. Indoor Track & Field Championships. That same year, she made history in Mexico City, finishing the 200-meter race in 22.11 seconds, a new world record in the under-20 category.

In 2003, Felix decided to forgo college eligibility and instead sign a professional contract with Adidas, who picked up her college tuition at the University of Southern California.

Olympic Medalist

At just 18 years old, Felix competed in her first Olympics, the 2004 Summer Games in Athens. Competing in the 200-meter race, she finished second, behind Jamaica’s Veronica Campbell-Brown, and earned the silver medal. In 2005, she became the youngest champion to compete at the World Championships, and two years later, she became only the second female to win three gold medals at a single World Championships.

At the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, Felix ran a personal best of 21.93 in the 200 meters but again finished behind Campbell-Brown, taking a second silver medal. She did, however, earn one gold medal that year, with the women’s 4-by-400-meter relay team.

At the 2012 Olympic Games in London, Felix won her first individual gold medal, beating out Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Carmelita Jeter in the 200-meter, respectively, with a time of 21.88 seconds.

Her longtime rival, Veronica Campbell-Brown, finished fourth in the race. Felix went on to compete in the 4-by-100-meter relay, and, along with teammates Carmelita Jeter, Bianca Knight and Tianna Madison, won another gold medal.

The relay team also set a new world record, with a time of 40.82 seconds (the previous record was 41.37 seconds, set in 1985 by East Germany.

Felix won gold again in the 4-by-400-meter relay with teammates DeeDee Trotter, Francena McCorory, and Sanya Richards-Ross. Their winning time of 3:16.87 was the third-fastest time in Olympic history.

With her first-place victories in 2012, Felix became the first American woman to win three gold medals at an Olympics since Florence Griffith-Joyner at the 1988 Olympics.

Felix made history again at the 2016 Summer Games in Rio, earning a silver medal in the 400-meter race, making her the most decorated woman in U.S. track and field history with a total of seven medal wins. She broke her tie with U.S. Olympic legend Jackie Joyner-Kersee, who had won six medals. (Joyner-Kersee is married to Felix’s coach Bobby Kersee.)

The second-place finish was a bittersweet outcome for Felix, who had hoped for the gold. She finished just .07 seconds after Shaunae Miller of the Bahamas, who dove across the finish line to victory.

“I gave it everything I had,” Felix told reporters after the race. “It’s deeply disappointing. I’m a competitor.”

She added: “When I look back, I know I will be proud of this medal with everything that came along with it.”

Felix put the disappointment behind her and finished the 2016 Olympics on top, winning two gold medals in the 4×100-meter relay and 4×400-meter relay, along with her U.S. teammates.

With nine Olympics medals, six gold and one silver, Felix became the most decorated woman in U.S. track and field history. She tied Jamaican sprinter Merlene Ottey for the title of the most decorated woman in Olympic track and field history.

Voice for gender equality

Felix has also been an outspoken advocate for better support for athletes who are moms.

The mom has been a prominent voice against gender inequality in sports. Writing in The New York Times in 2019, Felix detailed her lack of maternity protections with her then-sponsor Nike after giving birth to her daughter, Camryn.

Following the publication of the opinion piece, Nike announced a new maternity policy for all sponsored athletes.

She recently launched a lifestyle brand, Saysh, that she says was inspired by her experience with “gender injustice” during her journey to motherhood.

She also has teamed up with apparel company Athleta and the Women’s Sports Foundation to launch The Power of She Fund: Child Care Grants, which help cover child care costs for professional mom-athletes travelling to competitions.