Never mind that she got passed at the end of her last sprint around the track. Or ended up with a bronze medal instead of gold.
For 15 memorable seconds on Saturday (AEST) at the World Athletics Championships, Allyson Felix was sprinting alone in the sunshine, cruising far ahead of the field down the back stretch. Her arms were pumping and knees were kicking high with that near-perfect form that can only belong to her.
She’s 36 now. So it was no huge shock that a runner 11 years her junior, Marileidy Paulino of the winning Dominican Republic team, eventually reeled her in. No big shame that the US, saving the rest of its vaunted star power for big races over the next nine days of this meet, finished third, also behind the Netherlands.
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It still equalled Felix’s 19th medal at the World Athletics Championships, extending a record she already held. Adding it to the 11 she’s taken at the Olympics, she’ll end her career with an even 30 at her sport’s biggest events.
Much like the end of Felix’s career, her last big evening on the track was about more than the race. It was a celebration of a once-in-a-lifetime athlete who came onto the scene as a shy teenager and left as an outspoken advocate for women and mums both in and out of sports.
Google got into the act. A search of her name on Saturday brought up all her credentials, overlaid by animation of her sprinting across the computer screen followed by the words “Olympian. Mother. Advocate”.
All part of a fitting finale for the mother of three-year-old Cammy, who said she was looking forward to being “normal”, focusing on her family and not having to get up for workouts with her famed taskmaster of a coach, Bobby Kersee.
Felix was entered only in the mixed relay after failing to qualify for the worlds in an individual race. When her name was announced at the beginning, the two-thirds-full house at the first World Athletics Championships held in the United States cheered as loudly as they had all night.
She paced and jumped around after the starting gun, waiting for her last lap.
American Elijah Godwin had a slim lead when he passed her the baton, and for the first 200 metres of her final lap around the track, Felix extended the margin and was running virtually alone in the sun-splashed back stretch. But she faded after she rounded her final turn and was caught by Paulino.
Vernon Norwood recaptured the lead on the third leg, but the Domincan’s Fiordaliza Cofil overtook American Kennedy Simon on the anchor, and then hurdler Femke Bol made a huge late charge to give The Netherlands the silver. The Dominican Republic won in 3:09.82, with a margin of 0.08 seconds.
The US finished in 3:10.16. The stat sheet said Felix ran her final 400 metres in 50.15 seconds. It’s nowhere near the 47.72-second split she ran in a gold-medal 4×400 at the World Athletics Championships in 2015 — still the fastest ever by an American woman — but that was hardly the point.
That she was out there at all seemed like a big enough accomplishment, given the road she climbed after an emergency C-section, eight weeks before her due date in 2019, left her and Cammy in the hospital, and left Allyson thinking more about making it out than ever running again.
Felix smiled widely as World Athletics president Sebastian Coe hung the medal around her neck and second gentleman Douglas Emhoff, on hand for the presentation, shook her hand.
Felix stood straight as the Dominican Republic’s national anthem played.
Then, moments later, she exited through the ramp, leaving the big stage for the final time.
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