Allyson Felix, who has won 6 Olympic gold medals and 9 Olympic medals overall, is one of the most talented and decorated track and field athletes of all time. On Sunday, Felix participated in the mixed-gender 4×400 relay team as the 2nd leg and won her 12th World Championship gold medal. With that win, Felix made history as she now holds the record for the most IAAF World Championship track and field gold medals.
Felix stated simply on Twitter, “Humbled.”
The accomplishment for Felix is that much sweeter, considering nearly a year ago she underwent an emergency C-section after a battle with severe preeclampsia.
“I’ve had to fight a lot this year — for my health, for my daughter, for women & mothers, for what I deserve and for my fitness,” Felix said after the win.
Felix gave birth to her daughter Camryn 2 months prematurely and spent a month in the neonatal intensive care unit of the hospital until the baby was strong enough to go home.
“Last Christmas when I was in the hospital I could not have believed at all that I would be here in Doha winning medals,” Felix told BBC Sport. “This moment that was supposed to be so happy was happy, but it was also really scary and uncertain.”
It was through that experience that moved Felix to lend her voice to the fight for maternity rights. She addressed the Committee on Ways and Means of the US Congress to discuss the high rates of mortality amongst maternal black women. As it stands, black women in America are more likely to have complications and almost four times as likely to die from childbirth. She addressed Congress in hopes of saving lives.
Felix also took Nike to task under the guise of maternity rights. During contract negotiations Nike intended to pay her “70% less than before.” While Felix was willing to be flexible in the financial department, she was clear about certain protections that she felt were even more important.
In an article published by the New York Times, Felix explained, “I asked Nike to contractually guarantee that I wouldn’t be punished if I didn’t perform at my best in the months surrounding childbirth. I wanted to set a new standard. If I, one of Nike’s most widely marketed athletes, couldn’t secure these protections, who could? Nike declined.”
Ultimately, Felix decided to move on from Nike and is now the face of Athleta, a subsidiary of Gap.
Nike made an announcement in May that significant changes had been made to their maternity contracts which include that women athletes “will no longer be financially penalized for having a child.”
“Our voices have power,” Felix said.
It makes one wonder if Felix knows how powerful she is.
What can be more powerful than changing the world for the next generation, surviving a near-death experience, becoming a mother, and training hard to fight for a coveted spot on the Olympic team?
Felix explained,”… I feel like athlete and activist are coming hand in hand. Athlete is my job but I almost feel like activist is my responsibility. And a privilege as well. Any opportunity I have to speak out I will.”
Felix will run in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.