Olympic track and field star Allyson Felix, who gave birth to a baby girl in December, surpassed none other than Usain Bolt with her record 12th gold medal at the World Athletics Championships. In the mixed relay, the six-time Olympic gold medallist sprinter Felix showed a dominant display as her run was the highlight of the event. She achieved the impossible as she broke Usain Bolt’s gold medal record tally of 11 World Championship gold medals. She was racing in her first major championships since taking a break from the sport to have a baby. The US track queen won a record 12th World Championship gold medal on her major return as her 10-month-old daughter, Camryn, watched from the audience.
A team of Jamaican sprint queen Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Felix won an unprecedented fourth 100m crown at the worlds on Sunday. The 32-year-old Fraser-Pryce, who too took some time off in 2017 to give birth to her first child, delivered a powerpacked run to take the 100m in 10.71sec. “To be standing here as world champion again after having my baby, I am elated,” said Fraser-Pryce.
- Allyson Felix broke Usain Bolt’s gold medal record tally of 11 World Championship gold medals, and now has 12 golds in five different events at the World Championships.
- Gold medallist mothers Felix and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce were the highlights at the Championships as they were both racing in their first major championships since taking breaks from the sport to have children.
- Frasaer-Pryce called it “a victory for motherhood”
A newly mom Felix came back to the sport in July after a 13-month time off. The 33-year-old then failed to qualify for the individual 400m event in Doha, but took gold in the 4x400m mixed relay as the United States run to victory in a world record time of 3min 09.34sec.
Overall, Felix now can show off her incredible 26 medals haul which also includes six Olympic gold medals. She called out Nike this year for failing to support her during her pregnancy, was competing in her ninth straight world championships. Her records in World Championship and in Olympic honours are more than any other track and field athlete in history. “So special, to have my daughter here watching means the world to me,” Felix said afterwards. “It’s been a crazy year for me.”
It wasn’t an easy year or a pregnancy for the sprinter. She was told it’s over for female athletes who decide to start having kids. Then she had to fight her way through maternity policy and equality in the industry.
“I think everything I went through this year … it just brings it all back that it’s so much bigger than myself,” Felix said.
Nike, the US sporting goods giant ruled that there will be no financial penalties for sponsored athletes who become pregnant. Felix joined a chorus of critics, thus pressuring Nike in changing its maternity policy, the New York Times reported.
Felix had a premature baby and spent around a month in the neonatal intensive-care unit. She had to undergo an emergency C-section at 32 weeks because of severe pre-eclampsia, her and her baby’s life were in jeopardy. She claimed that Nike pressured her to return to training as soon as possible, and they wanted to pay her 70 percent less than before. “It puts things in perspective,” Felix said.
After the controversy, Nike waived off performance-pay reductions for 12 months for athletes who decide to have a baby. The policy secured female athletes’ pay during pregnancy.
The New York Times had earlier shared Felix’s experience with Nike during her pregnancy time. Felix said to have been offered a reduced contract by Nike since taking time off in 2018 during her pregnancy. She dedicated her story for the Olympian runners Alysia Montaño and Kara Goucher, who broke their silence on the brand’s mistreatment to their pregnant female athletes. Their complaint had similar allegations against Nike as part of an investigation by the Times.
Felix continued, “It’s one example of a sports industry where the rules are still mostly made for and by men.”
“They told stories we athletes know are true, but have been too scared to tell publicly. If we have children, we risk pay cuts from our sponsors during pregnancy and afterward,” wrote Felix, who gave birth to a baby girl in December.
Feature Image Credit: The Undefeated