Queen Felix closed her career on the global stage with one last medal.
Allyson Felix, running a final time at the World Athletics World Championships, was the second leg of the United States’ mixed 4×400 meter relay, with the team finishing third in the event Friday night.
Felix received the baton from Elija Godwin, who led off and was in a close second when he got to Felix. Felix opened up a considerable lead on the backstretch though Dominican Republic runner Marileidy Paulino closed the gap over the final 20 meters of their lap; Felix did not yield the lead when she passed to Vernon Norwood. Norwood was content to tuck behind Dominican Republic’s Alexander Ogando for most of his lap, then passed him coming off the final turn. Kennedy Simon was the American closer — she continued to build on the lead for the first 250 meters or so but Dominican anchor Fiordaliza Cofil and Femke Bol of the Netherlands not only closed the gap, they passed Simon just before the finish line.
Dominican Republic’s winning time was 3:09.82; it was just the third gold and fifth medal for the country in Worlds history. The Netherlands’ time was 3:09.90, and the United States’ was 3:10.16.
Though it wasn’t the gold everyone hoped for, it was Felix’s 19th Worlds medal, extending her record for most ever, man or woman, that she claimed from sprinting great Usain Bolt in 2019.
Now 36-years-old, Felix announced in April that this would be her final season. She first ran in the senior Worlds in 2003, when at just 17 she earned a spot on the US national team in the 200 meters. She did not advance to the event finals then, but just a year later in Athens she won the Olympic silver medal in the 200, behind Jamaica legend Veronica Campbell Brown.
She has remained a mainstay on the American team since.
But until she became a mother in late 2018, Felix essentially let her run do the talking for her. She was not flashy in the tradition of Florence Griffith-Joyner, she wasn’t outspoken, but she was remarkably consistent and gradually built what is now the biggest collection of World and Olympics medals of any American ever and any woman ever. Last year in Tokyo, Felix called on all of her experience for her to win bronze in the open 400 meters and was part of the gold medal-winning 4×400 relay, her 10th and 11th Olympics medals for her.
After her daughter Camryn was born in November 2018, Felix found her voice and her purpose beyond the track. She had to have an emergency c-section at just 32 weeks when doctors discovered Felix had developed preeclampsia, a pregnancy-specific condition that causes dangerously high and sometimes fatal blood pressure levels. Camryn was born at 3 pounds, 7 ounces and spent a month in neonatal intensive care, and Felix needed extra medical care after the birth as well.
The experience has led to Felix becoming a champion for athlete moms: she spoke up about how her longtime sponsor, Nike, wanted to slash her salary by 70 percent when it learned she was pregnant; she now offers grants to help with childcare for other mothers who are in training; she’s testified before Congress about the disparities in maternal mortality, which disproportionately affects Black women; and after her split with Nike she started her own footwear company, Saysh.
Already admired for her graceful stride and results on the track, she has become an icon beyond the sport with her advocacy for women and mothers.
The World Championships continue Saturday, with three event finals: women’s shot put, men’s hammer throw, and the men’s 100 meters. The United States has a strong chance at gold medals in shot put, where Chase Ealey has been the best in the world this year, and in the men’s 100, where Tokyo silver medalist Fred Kerley made his 9.79 second opening-round run look easy. Trayvon Bromell posted the second-fastest time in the opening round at 9.89 seconds.