U.S. Olympic team sprinter Allyson Felix is a testament to the old adage: “What a man can do, a woman can do better.”
On Sunday, the 33-year-old sprinter beat her tie with Usain Bolt when she won her 12th gold medal at the IAAF World Athletics Championships in Doha. This remarkable feat currently makes her the only athlete with the most gold medals in the world championships. Felix returned to the tracks after giving birth in November last year.
A member of the mixed-gender 4x400m relay team for the United States, Felix, together with Wil London III, Courtney Okolo and Michael Cherry came up tops in the keenly contested race, complementing it with a world record time of 3:09.34.
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“So special, to have my daughter here watching means the world to me,” she told NBC Sports after their victory. “It’s been a crazy year for me.”
A great achievement, Felix, who also holds the bragging rights of being the female with the most medals (nine) at the Olympics didn’t, however, have an all-too-good year, particularly when she was pregnant.
Thirty-two weeks into her pregnancy, she had to undergo an emergency C-section due to suffering from preeclampsia. She also had to endure postpartum for six weeks, NBC Sports reports.
She also severed a seven-year tie with Nike when the sports brand attempted to slash her sponsorship earnings by 70% after she conceived. In the aftermath of the incident, Felix, together with former Nike teammates Alysia Montaño and Kara Goucher openly challenged the company to amend its maternity policy for female athletes on their roster.
“If we have children, we risk pay cuts from our sponsors during pregnancy and afterward. It’s one example of a sports industry where the rules are still mostly made for and by men,” she wrote in an opinion piece for the New York Times.
Thanks to their advocacy, Nike amended its maternity policy, announcing that the earnings of female athletes won’t be “adversely impacted financially for pregnancy” for 18 months, according to CNN Business.
“NIKE has joined in officially and contractually providing maternal protection to the female athletes they sponsor,” she captioned. “This means that female athletes will no longer be financially penalized for having a child.”
Felix is set to compete in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.