Allyson Felix sought an apparel deal that offered maternity protection. History’s most decorated female Olympic track and field athlete found one with a company that has never before sponsored an athlete.
Felix agreed to a multiyear contract with Athleta, a Gap brand women’s apparel company.
Felix wore Athleta apparel at the USATF Outdoor Championships last week, where she competed unsponsored and placed sixth in the 400m. She qualified for this fall’s world championships in the 4x400m relay, but will decide later this summer whether to compete at a ninth straight worlds. Her priority is preparing for the Olympics.
Nationals marked her first meet in more than one year and since Nov. 28 chlidbirth by emergency C-section.
The Athleta deal does not include footwear. Felix said she is working on her next shoe sponsorship after seven years with Nike preceded by seven with Adidas.
Athleta reached out to Felix in the spring, when she penned an op-ed voicing concern for female athletes who decide to start a family. Felix revealed in May that her seven-year sponsorship with Nike ended in December 2017 and was not extended, at least in part over pay protection for pregnancy.
The Athleta contract and compensation is consistent whether Felix is or is not competing, including “full protection during maternity,” according to the company. Felix, 33, plans to compete beyond one year, but the Tokyo Olympics would be her fifth and final Games.
Athleta said it will work with Felix on initiatives to empower women and girls through sports.
“Allyson joins Athleta as an athlete, mother and activist, in support of a female athlete’s holistic life,” the company said.
At nationals last week, Felix said she wants to end her career on her own terms. Her previous Olympic cycle did not go as planned. She partially tore two ligaments in her right ankle in late April 2016 and missed her goal of qualifying for Rio in both the 200m and 400m, coming up .01 short in the 200m at trials.
Felix did go to Rio in the 400m and took silver behind Bahamian Shaunae Miller-Uibo, who dived across the finish line and prevailed by .07.
“I felt like in 2016, with the injury right before trials, that just kind of like took over for me,” she said this week. “It wasn’t how I pictured things. I just want to be able to work hard as I can, be at the best level that I could physically, give my all, have no regrets. To me that’s what it is about my terms and just to be happy with that.”
And those terms would include a seventh Olympic title.
“With the journey I’ve been on and the things with the past year, it might be hard for other people to buy in, but, for me, I feel like I’m going after a gold medal just like any other major championship. I’m not changing that,” she said.
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