Allyson Felix heads home for the final sprint at Race for Change

basketball was Allyson Felixthat’s the game. The court was where the shy minister’s daughter could express herself better than she ever could in words. She cherished her Kobe Bryant jersey and his hoop dreams.

She was 5-foot-6 and thin, but could jump and run, skills she showed for the LA Baptist freshman basketball team. When her father Paul and brother Wes urged her to try track and field in the spring of 2000, she reluctantly agreed. She showed up for tryouts in long basketball shorts and her favorite Gary Payton Glove sneakers.

“I didn’t know anything about running shoes,” she said.

Fast forward to 2021. Months after she and Wes launched women’s shoes Saysh brandshe wore her company’s custom pointe shoes while winning a courageous bronze medal in the 400 meters to COVID-delayed Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

“It’s crazy for me to think about it, but it’s very cool for me to keep doing what I love,” said Felix, who raced the second leg of the triumphant United States women’s event. United. 4×400 relay a day later to win his 11th Olympic medal, the most by an American track and field athlete. “And I can do it for women. Even cooler.

The journey that began for Felix in North Hills and spanned five Olympics and eight world championships will end on Sunday. After winning gold and bronze medals in the relay at the world championships in Eugene, Oregon, to bring her record total to 20 world medals, it’s fitting that she’s coming home for her final sprint.

The Race for changeto be held Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Skylight Row, will feature a street race, age-group contests and community events that draw attention to the family and women-centered causes that Felix has championed eloquently since her daughter Camryn was born prematurely in 2018. With logistical help from lifestyle brand Athleta, who sponsored her when she left Nike to protest its unfair treatment of female athletes who were mothers or were considering becoming mothers, she will come out the way she envisioned.

“I said to them, ‘I don’t know if it’s possible, but my dream scenario would be to race in my hometown, on the street. I think that would be the coolest thing ever,” she said the other day. “I love street racing, and a lot of friends and family have never gotten to see me race in person. And there are no more meets here. I thought it was a time perfect for partying.”

Allyson Felix competes in the women's 4x400 meters relay at the World Athletics Championships on July 23.

Allyson Felix competes in the women’s 4×400 meters relay at the World Athletics Championships on July 23.

(Charlie Riedel/Associated Press)

Félix, 36, is retiring with few regrets. Not that it all ended the way she would have liked: she won Olympic gold in her favorite race, the 200 meters, just once, in London in 2012. And after coach Bobby Kersee Pushed into the more grueling 400m, she was beaten in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games final when Shaunae Miller of the Bahamas made a desperate dive at the finish line.

Still, Félix made sure that each experience enlightened her and made her stronger. She has never cheated in competition. She never deceived herself or deceived anyone who recognized her integrity and consistency.

“Maybe I could have been more successful in some things if I hadn’t been more risky and hadn’t pursued some of the more difficult things. But I think that’s what he is all about, challenging yourself, and even though I don’t like the 400, I’m glad I gave it a shot,” she said. “I’m glad I tried something that was really hard for me, who was out of my comfort zone.

“If I had to dissect things, there are definitely things that I probably wish they had turned out differently, but I will say that I think everything went as planned, and I think that made me happy. leads where I’m meant to be.

Quiet by nature, she learned to stand up for herself and other women after her daughter was born by emergency cesarean section in 2018 and spent weeks in a neonatal intensive care unit. Felix gave powerful testimony before Congress in 2019 about the disproportionate pregnancy risks black women face, a cause that remains important to her.

She would also like to see childcare support and facilities become available for female athletes so they don’t have to look for bathrooms or cubbies to look after their children during competitions. She hopes to raise corporate awareness of the value of the efforts of female athletes and to persuade more women that they can be competitors and mothers, and not have to choose one or the other, as her sponsors and society seemed. tell him early in his career. There is no doubt that she will also be champion there.

Yet speaking was not easy or instinctive for her. That changed when his brother Wes, who was a sprinter at USC, assured him that the substance of his message mattered more than the volume of his words. “Even if your voice is shaking, you can still use it. There’s still power there. That’s where I was,” she said.

Allyson Felix smiles after winning bronze in the 4x400 meters mixed relay at the world championships on July 15.

Allyson Felix smiles after winning bronze in the 4×400 meters mixed relay at the world championships on July 15.

(Gregory Bull/Associated Press)

She recently joined the International Olympic Committee Athletes’ Commission, a powerful group. She sits on the board of directors of Right to Play, an international non-profit organization focused on children, and &Mother, a non-profit organization founded by fellow athlete/mom Alysia Montano to support female athletes. She is involved with the Power of She Fund, which partners with Athleta and the Women’s Sports Foundation to provide childcare grants to athletes. She joked that she would give herself the day off on Monday, the first day of her post-competitive life, before diving into her new world on Tuesday.

She will miss the competition but will not miss the training sessions that exhausted her and made her vomit. She knew that this year would be her last because she no longer had the heart and the thirst to run. “I felt like whatever it would take, I wasn’t ready to give,” she said.

Cammy, 3 1/2, was an adorable presence at the world championships a few weeks ago in Eugene, shouting “Come on, mom, come on!” when Felix ran. She may have been too young to grasp exactly what had happened, but the details didn’t really matter.

“I hope what she takes away is that mom was doing what she loves. Mom was fulfilling a passion,” Felix said. “I hope it’s part of her childhood, that she saw her mother working and doing what she loves.”

She loved it and we loved watching her. What Félix does next for the women who follow should be equally successful and fascinating to watch.

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