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US athletics great Felix extending legacy beyond track

(AFP)

Seven-time Olympic athletics champion Allyson Felix’s farewell season is about more than medals, even if it does yield one last trip to the World Championships.

The 36-year-old star said appearing at the trials even as she builds her Saysh shoe brand and advocates for women in the sport makes for a rich experience.

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“This is really special for me,” Felix said Wednesday as she prepared to race in the 400m at Eugene’s Hayward Field, which will host the World Athletics Championships July 15-24.

“I hope my legacy is one of trying to leave the sport better than when I came and fighting and advocating for women,” she said.

“I’m proud of some of the things we’ve been able to accomplish lately and to be able to do all of this in my own shoes is really special.”

This week Felix has teamed with sponsor Athleta and non-profit group &Mother — co-founded with two-time world champion Alysia Montano — to provide free child care to athletes, coaches and staff at the US championships.

Felix, Athleta — through its Power of She Fund — and the Women’s Sports Foundation are also continuing child care grants to women athletes so they can continue to train, extending a program that has already awarded more than $200,000 in grants.

“I hope all of that is a part of my legacy,” said Felix, who became a mother in 2018 and found that sponsor Nike cut back her pay during maternity leave.

“I was really inspired by what I had seen in other sports, tennis they’ve got child care on tour, what had been happening with the WNBA agreement.

“I knew that in my own personal experience, from friends of mine, this could be helpful. 

“I hope that this is raising awareness and that this is something that will be around for a long time, just for it to be the norm.”

Balancing the projects and training has been a challenge,” Felix admitted.

She was not even sure she wanted to continue running after capping her Olympic career with a 400m bronze and relay gold at the Tokyo Games.

She called Tokyo the “most meaningful” of her five Olympic appearances, even ahead of her dazzling campaign in London in 2012 where she won 200m, 4x100m relay and 4x400m relay gold to become the first US woman to win three athletics golds at one Games since Florence Griffith-Joyner at the 1988 Summer Olympics.

“2012 was so special, everything came together and that was great and amazing, but to me 2021 was about impact,” said Felix, whose 11 Olympic medals are the most for a female athlete.

“Last year was kind of my dream scenario to be able kind of to leave from the athletics side of things,” Felix said. “But I knew there were still some things I wanted to do and I would have more influence if I was still running.”

Rebecca BRYAN

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