Allyson Felix earned the title of most decorated female Olympian in track and field history Friday morning, winning her 10th Olympic medal in the Women’s 400m final.
Felix crossed the finish line in 49.46 seconds. Shaunae Miller-Uibo of the Bahamas won gold (48.36 seconds), while Marileidy Paulino of the Dominican Republic won the silver medal (49.20 seconds).
The 35-year-old mother passed Jamaica’s Merlene Ottey, who won nine Olympic medals (six golds and three silvers) and tied Carl Lewis for most track and field medals by an American.
Despite coming in third, Felix broke Evelyn Ashford’s record as the oldest U.S. woman to win an Olympic track and field medal, according to Olympedia.
Her bronze medal-winning time was the second-fastest time she has ever run and .05 faster than her silver medal-winning time in Rio.
Felix made her debut at 18 years old at the 2004 Athens Olympics and has been a superstar ever since. She won one medal in 2004, two in 2008, three in 2012 and three in 2016. She also has won 19 world championship medals over her storied career.
If the woman’s 4x400m relay team can defend their title on Saturday, Felix would surpass Lewis as the most decorated American athlete in track and field. That would leave only Paavo Nurmi of Finland with more medals in the sport at 12.
Felix’s journey to the Tokyo Olympics was not certain. In November 2018, after giving birth to her daughter in an emergency cesarean section, Felix suffered from severe pre-eclampsia, which resulted in her daughter remaining in intensive care for weeks.
“There are a lot of moments where I was doubtful,” Felix said after the 400m semifinal round.
It took some time for her to get back to the grueling workouts she had once completed with ease after giving birth. Gone were the days of being able to qualify for the final round without a thought. Felix admitted that as she got older she needed to get smarter about her training.
“When I was younger, I don’t think I ever thought about making a final,” Felix said. “You get older and it seems like it gets harder. You just have to get smarter and figure it all out. I’ll say that. I’ve been very intentional, and I’ve had to take it one round at a time.”
Felix became an advocate for mothers, visiting congress to address the racial disparities in maternal mortality. She leaned on her own experience as a mother and pledged to fight for the health inequities of black women.
After criticizing the maternal policies of her sponsor Nike, she ended her deal with the company and decided to sign with Athleta, a female-focused sportswear company.
Felix will compete for possibly the last time in her historic career in the women’s 4x400m final on Saturday morning at 8:30 a.m. ET.
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