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Allyson Felix qualifies for 5th Olympics at 35, 1st as mom

Allyson Felix qualifies for 5th Olympics at 35, 1st as mom
Posted at 10:14 PM, Jun 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-21 03:57:24-04

Allyson Felix secured her fifth Olympic berth Sunday at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Eugene, Oregon, placing second in the 400m final, an event in which she won silver at the 2016 Rio Games.

The 35-year-old mother is already the most decorated American woman in Olympic track and field history with nine medals – six gold and three silver – and she's now guaranteed an opportunity to add to that total this summer.

From lane eight, Felix led early on the backstretch before tapering off halfway then rocketing back from fifth- to second-place in the final 50 meters to clock 50.02.

"I told myself before the race that when it comes down to it, I have to fight," Felix said after the race. "That's been a theme of mine for the past couple years. I was just gonna give my all and leave it all on the track."

First-place finisher Quanera Hayes (49.78) and Wadeline Jonathas (50.03) will join Felix in Tokyo. Both will make their Olympic debuts at ages 29 and 23, respectively.

Among the 16 finalists in both the men's and women's 400m, Felix was the only one who had competed in an Olympics.

SEE MORE: Get to know Olympic hopeful Allyson Felix

Felix ran the fourth-fastest 400m of Friday's first-round heats in 50.99, and followed that up with a 51.01 in Saturday's semifinals, sixth-fastest among competitors that round. She then entered Sunday's final as the ninth-best American woman at 400m this season, but five of the eight women ahead of her on that list were also in the race.

Sunday's final was fast, with all eight competitors going sub-51 seconds and seven including Felix running season-bests – three of which were also personal-bests for Kaylin Whitney, Taylor Manson and Shae Anderson.

Felix's 50.02 is her best open 400m in four years — not since a sub-50 performance at the London Anniversary Games in July 2017 has she run faster.

"[I was] just trying to be smart through the rounds," Felix said. "Smart through all of this with the postponement. Obviously I'm a lot older than anyone, so just putting it all together at the right time."

SEE MORE: 2019 Worlds: US, Felix dominate 1st mixed relay

Felix's daughter Camryn, 2½, and her husband Kenneth Ferguson were at Hayward Field to take it all in.

"She’s getting a lot more of [the action] than I even expected," Felix said. "She's having fun, playing all day long and then coming to the meet in the evening - just enjoying it all."

The experience was new for Felix as a mother, who didn't have Camryn until two years after the Rio Games.

"I wanted to really show her that, no matter what, you do things with character, integrity, and you don’t give up," she said. "Having her as motivation through these past couple years has just given me a whole new drive."

Camryn, or "Cammy," was born in November 2018 via emergency C-section and was cared for in the NICU along with Felix for weeks. The recovery was extremely tough, but they made it, together.

"There were a lot of moments, especially giving birth, all the health complications we had. I really wasn't sure," Felix said. "It seemed like I was getting hit with thing after thing."

This stage of Felix's career has proven how much strength she truly possesses, and even though she's a track sprint Olympian at 35 years old with countless accolades and hardware, she wants other mothers to know they, too, can find the willpower to push on when the going gets tough.

"You can do it. I think society tells a lot of times you have a child and your best moments are behind you," Felix said. "But that's absolutely not the case. There's so many women across industries that are out here and getting it done. I hope that when they watch and they see me, they see that it's possible."

SEE MORE: Dear Cammy: Allyson Felix writes powerful letter to her daughter (video)

Felix is also entered to compete next week in the 200m, an event in which she's a four-time world medalist, three-time Olympic medalist and No. 6 all-time.

But unlike in the 400m, where Felix now ranks eighth-fastest in the world, it's unclear how she'll do in the shorter distance due to a lack of recent times. Prior to a 22.59 indoors in February she hadn't posted a 200m time since July 2017. And she's only run the race one other time in 2021, clocking a barely wind-aided 22.26 last month at Mt. SAC which if legal would make her the world's sixth-fastest this year.

"I wanna have fun with it," Felix said. "As everybody knows I love the 200. I used to call it my baby. I wanna go out and just still have the same approach."

Felix will likely also have relay duty in Tokyo, which bodes well for her medal count quest – five of her historic nine Olympic medals to this point have come in the relays, all of them gold, and the new mixed relay provides an additional opportunity not previously available in her last four appearances.

SEE MORE: Rio 2016: Miller dives, upsets Felix in 400m final

A native of Los Angeles, Felix first made the U.S. Olympic team in 2004 at 18 years old and won silver in the 200m in Athens. She would repeat the result at the 2008 Beijing Games and also win her first gold medal as the second leg on Team USA's 4x100m relay team.

Her most successful Olympics to date came at the 2012 Games in London where she won three gold medals in the 200m, 4x100m and 4x400m. In 2016, Felix helped defend both relay golds and earned silver in the 400m after being edged at the line by way of a dive.

If she doesn't ultimately qualify in the open 200m, she'll presumably compete in three Tokyo events: the 400m, 4x400m and mixed 4x400m.

"I am proud of making it to this moment," she said. "There has been so much that has gone into this and there were many times where I didn't think I would get to this moment."

SEE MORE: London 2012: USA's Allyson Felix strikes gold in the 200m

Felix has said Tokyo, if made, would be her last Olympics. And she reaffirmed that word Sunday after successfully qualifying when asked if she was sure: "I'm absolutely sure."

This Instagram post was making the rounds after her race, comparing what the world looked like when Felix made her first Games 17 years ago.

The early 21st century Olympics won't be the same without her. But fortunately we have one more, and best of all, Cammy does, too.

"It was really special," Felix said after Sunday's final, talking about pulling Cammy from the stands to sit on the track together. "I shared a moment with my own daughter and obviously she can’t understand everything that's gone on for the past couple of years, but I just can't wait to share this story with her — about how she's been my driving force."