Not all fairy tales have a perfect ending. In the final race of a two-decade career, and more medals than anyone in track and field history, Allyson Felix left Hayward Field with bronze, not gold in the mixed 4x400m relay as the States States were stunned by the Dominican Republic.
For a few magical moments, as Félix took a 20m lead in the second leg and the crowd erupted with noise and love, it seemed to come back. “I felt the love and I felt the joy of running,” she said afterwards.
And how it showed. But Felix is now 36 and she has been shut down and overpowered by Tokyo 2020 individual silver medalist Marileidy Paulino. Even so, the United States still looked set to justify their status as 1-20 favorites until the final 15 yards of the run were desperate, when Kennedy Simon was caught and the script tore up.
It was very close. The Dominican Republic won in 3:9.82, with the Netherlands just 0.08 behind after a superb anchoring run from Femke Bol. The US, was third in 3:10.16.
At that time, you could hear most of the air and the joy being sucked out of the stadium. Felix kept smiling, however, embracing her teammates and then hugging Sebastian Coe as she was presented with her medal by the chairman of World Athletics. She was still beaming deep into the night as she spoke fondly of her last run and inspired her three-year-old daughter, Camryn, to watch.
“Being able to compete here in front of my own crowd at a world championship was something I had always wanted,” she said. “Obviously, I’m not at the peak of my career. But just being able to finish it with Camryn in the stands, and sharing that moment with her, means a lot. Why isn’t Camryn with you now, she was asked? “She’s going to get some ice cream,” Felix replied with a laugh. ” She is three years old. She is living her best life.
Felix leaves his sport after racking up an impressive 30 Olympic and World Championship medals over the past 18 years, a number that may never be beaten. To put that into context, the closest to her on the all-time list, Merlene Ottey, had 23, while Usain Bolt had 21.
Certainly, Felix does not leave a trail of scorching times in his wake. Her personal best in the 200m, 21.69 seconds, ranks her as the eighth best of all time. But greatness isn’t measured by a stopwatch, but by many and few can match Felix’s longevity, his range of events, or his voice on important issues. She was truly a 3D athlete.
More recently, that voice has grown louder, especially after she became pregnant in 2018. At that time, Nike was already offering to cut her contract by 70%. When she found out that the company wouldn’t add maternity leave protections, Felix grew stronger and stronger. His second life had begun.
“For the past two years, I’ve only strayed away from the clock and the medals,” she said after the race. “And I never imagined it would be a place I would come. But I have. And what I hope to do from now on is really support female athletes and moms and continue the initiative to babysitting I have. They will all be in my next chapter.
Who knows where this will take her? Felix has previously created her own women’s footwear brand, Saysh, while in May she announced an initiative with her sponsor Athleta and the non-profit group &Mother to provide free childcare to athletes, staff and coaches for the first time in the history of the US Championships.
Speaking a few years ago, Felix also mentioned being an ambassador for the global humanitarian organization Right to Play, which led her to travel to refugee camps in countries like Rwanda, Uganda and Palestine. “I can run for a living, and it’s awesome and fun,” she once told me. “But the work that Right to Play does is so much more important.”
Asked Friday night what message she would send to her younger self, Félix replied: “Every defeat, every failure, is an opportunity to improve. Earlier in my career, I was sometimes paralyzed by disappointment. But there’s so much to learn from every moment. Embrace the journey. Everything.”
As a motto for living life, it doesn’t get much better than this. Again, few have done better than Felix – on or off the track.
Meanwhile, a frustrating 36-hour opening at these world championships for Team GB continued as Eilish McColgan performed below expectations in a thrilling women’s 10,000m final due to illness. and a hamstring problem that she says stemmed from her long flight to Eugene.
Approaching the last 300 meters, six women were in contention. But in a mad sprint, world-record holder Letesenbet Gidey of Ethiopia held on to claim her first world title in 30 minutes 9.94 seconds – just ahead of Kenya’s Hellen Obiri. Dutch Olympic champion Sifan Hassan, whose season was marred by injury, finished fourth.
McColgan, who had been considered an outside point for a medal, finished 10th in 30:34.60 – while Jess Judd beat her PB by 45 seconds to finish 11th in 30.35.93.
Earlier, pole vaulter Holly Bradshaw was left in tears and unable to compete after the Tokyo Olympic bronze medalist’s pole broke in a freak accident during warm-up. High jumper Morgan Lake also had to withdraw after testing positive for Covid.
Elsewhere, Chris Thompson will miss the men’s marathon due to a visa issue. However, there was better news for Great Britain in the women’s 3000m steeplechase as Aimee Pratt qualified for the final after setting a national record of 9:18.91.