TOKYO (AFP) - Allyson Felix made a smooth start to her quest for a record-breaking 10th Olympic medal on Tuesday (Aug 3), strolling to a comfortable win in the opening heats of the 400m.
The 35-year-old queen of American track and field, competing in her fifth Olympic Games, cruised through her heat in 50.84 seconds, the fourth-fastest time of qualifying.
Felix is the only female track and field athlete in history to win six Olympic gold medals and is currently tied with Merlene Ottey on nine medals as the most decorated female Olympian in track and field history.
"It's nice to get going," said Felix after her win.
"It feels like I've been waiting forever. It felt good to get out there and bump it up for the semi."
Felix, who plans to retire before the 2024 Olympics, said she was cherishing her final appearance on the Olympic stage, which she first graced as a teenager in Athens in 2004.
She said: "Obviously, I love this sport.
"It's been so much of my life and I think that's why, knowing this is my last time around, it means a lot to me."
Felix, a silver medallist in the 400m in 2016, is racing in her first Olympics as a mother.
She gave birth to daughter Camryn in 2018 after an emergency caesarean section and has since been a vocal advocate for the rights of working mothers.
"It has changed everything," Felix said of motherhood.
"It has given me a different drive. I've had so many challenges because of it. So I think it's even more meaningful now to be on this stage as a mum."
Felix split with her long-time sponsors Nike in 2019 after criticising the sporting apparel giant for seeking to slash her pay after she became pregnant.
She has subsequently launched her own line of footwear and running shoes, which she wore proudly on Tuesday in the Olympic Stadium.
She said: "I feel so proud for what we stand for, and what we're building and for focusing on women who for far too long have been overlooked."
Felix is almost certain to pull clear of Ottey as the most decorated Olympian in her final Games. As well as the 400m, she will most likely race in the 4x400m, an event the United States has dominated for decades, and may also feature in the 4x100m relay.