New mum Felix tackles wider goals

While glory on the track is still Allyson Felix's priority, the veteran is also fighting hard for women athletes outside of competition.
While glory on the track is still Allyson Felix's priority, the veteran is also fighting hard for women athletes outside of competition.

NEW YORK • With a possible fifth Olympics in her sights, Allyson Felix faces a year unlike any other. Yet the goal in many ways is the same, especially as an athlete.

In the roughly 15 months since giving birth, she carved out a new role on the track and off it, advocating for better benefits for working mothers and maintaining her competitive edge as she looks to add to her long list of accomplishments.

The six-time Olympic champion is the most-decorated American track and field female athlete. But life could hardly be more different than it was when she competed in her first Games 16 years ago.

"I feel a greater sense of responsibility now," said the 34-year-old. "Of course, qualifying and going after gold medals is still on the top of my list.

"But I also feel this opportunity to show my daughter so many things, show other girls a lot and to really just stand by a lot of my values."

After giving birth in November 2018, she returned to competition last year and ran in the United States' record-breaking 4x400m mixed relay at the world championships. She said that consistency in training has been essential.

"It's not my usual build-up," said Felix, whose daughter, Camryn, was added to her entourage on the road for competitions and training sessions.

"(I'm) just trying to be really smart about everything and being patient and sticking to the plan. As an athlete that's always difficult."

But the challenges of pregnancy went beyond the physical. In May last year, she penned an opinion piece in The New York Times in which she said she faced potential pay cuts from sponsors, including Nike, for having children.

"It was outside of my comfort zone, for sure, to talk about a super personal situation," she explained.

"But I do feel like the reception from women across all industries has been really encouraging."

She also applauded middle-distance runner Mary Cain, 23, for speaking out against coach Alberto Salazar for alleged abusive behaviour at the Nike Oregon Project.

"It just speaks to the power of the collective and what's happening right now with women and sports and her just feeling comfortable to be able to come out and to speak her truth," she said. "It definitely was a wake-up call to a lot of other people."

The 13-time world champion plans to compete in the 200m and 400m this year, with the US Olympic trials set for June.

"Each race is a stepping stone," she said. "(I'm) just looking to get my legs turning over and getting back into competitive situations.

"It's kind of just pieces of the puzzle."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 12, 2020, with the headline 'New mum Felix tackles wider goals'. Print Edition | Subscribe