Allyson Felix knows the way to the Olympic medals stands better than any runner alive. She made her record-setting 11th trip there Saturday, after starring as the headliner on a 4×400 relay win that featured a who’s who of American running.
With the gold medal dangling from her neck and “The Star-Spangled Banner” playing in the near-empty stadium, “I took a moment just to close my eyes and take it in one last time,” Felix said.
After the final race of the final Games of the 35-year-old sprinter’s career, Felix leaves the stage having won the most medals of any track athlete in U.S. history. It’s some list. She passed Carl Lewis, and now she only trails one person in the Olympic record book — Paavo Nurmi — the Finnish distance runner who won 12 between 1920 and 1928.
Felix, who a day earlier took bronze in the 400 meters to become the most decorated woman in the Olympic track has no plans to go any further. In her mind, as a sprinter at least. She also has nothing left to prove.
“I feel at peace,” she said. “I went out, had all the confidence in these amazing women. I wanted to take it all in one last time around, and it was special.”
She still plans to sound an active voice for women, and especially for mothers who too often hear what she heard when she got pregnant with her now 2-year-old daughter, Cammy: That once women start having babies, their best athletic days are behind them.
But if she had any concerns about the future of her sport on the track, the 3 minutes, 16.85-second jaunt she was part of in her last Olympic race — good for a 3.68-second romp over Poland — certainly put those to rest.
It was a 19-year-old, Athing Mu, who ran the anchor leg to secure Felix’s medal — the seventh gold in her collection of 11.
Sydney McLaughlin, the 400-meter hurdles world-record holder, celebrated her 22nd birthday by running the opening lap. She handed to Felix, who handed to another hurdler, Dalilah Muhammad, who is 31.
They had two things in common: All won medals in their individual races over the nine days in Tokyo. Also, not a single one is a 400-meter specialist.
(With AP inputs)