Allyson Felix breaks Usain Bolt record for world titles, gets first gold as a mom

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Allyson Felix‘s first gold medal as a mom came with this added significance, too — she broke her tie with Usain Bolt for the most gold medals in world championships history with 12.

“So special, to have my daughter here watching means the world to me,” Felix told Lewis Johnson on NBCSN. “It’s been a crazy year for me.”

Felix, 33 and the most decorated female track and field athlete at the Olympics with nine medals among four Games, was part of the winning U.S. quartet in the first world championships mixed-gender 4x400m relay, an event that makes its Olympic debut next year. She split 50.4 seconds.

Wil London III, Felix, Courtney Okolo and Michael Cherry combined to clock a world record 3:09.34 in the young event, prevailing by 2.44 seconds over Jamaica. Bahrain took bronze. Felix already had the record for world championships medals; she’s now up to 17 overall. As for beating Bolt?

“This is a different event, so I don’t really look at it in that way,” Felix said.

She had daughter Camryn on Nov. 28 via emergency C-section at 32 weeks. Felix had severe preeclampsia and, six weeks postpartum, began power walking (with difficulty). Camryn, born at 3 pounds, 7 ounces, spent her first 29 days in the NICU.

“This was my entire world. staying in the NICU all day & night watching my baby girl fight,” was posted on Felix’s social media in July. “I can still hear the beeping and alarms of the machines. the uncertainty. The fear. There were a lot of days i wasn’t sure this was going to be possible. I worked harder than i even knew i could. there were tears, frustration and doubt. At times it felt like everything was against me.”

Felix also saw her Nike contract expire after seven years, ending in December 2017 without being renewed, at least in part over pay protection for pregnancy.

Felix announced after placing sixth in the 400m at the USATF Outdoor Championships in July (her first meet as a mom) that she signed a new apparel deal with Athleta. The contract and compensation is consistent whether Felix is or is not competing, including full protection during maternity, according to the company.

Felix made the world team solely in the relay pool. It’s her ninth world team, breaking her tie with Amy Acuff for the most for an American, according to the OlyMADMen. Next year, Felix goes for her fifth Olympics and to break Michael Johnson‘s record as the oldest Olympic 400m medalist.

Felix repeated in interviews Sunday night that this abbreviated season was “a stepping stone.”

“Making it through this year with so much going on, I think it’s going to make next year feel a lot easier,” she said.

Felix’s world titles
3 — 200m
1 — 400m
3 — 4x100m
4 — 4x400m
1 — Mixed 4x400m

Bolt’s world titles
3 — 100m
4 — 200m
4 — 4x100m

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Tommy Ford ends U.S. men’s World Cup drought at Beaver Creek

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Tommy Ford earned his first World Cup win at age 30 and ended the U.S. men’s longest victory and podium droughts in two decades.

Ford won the giant slalom in Beaver Creek, Colo., on Sunday, the last North American race on tour this season. He prevailed by eight tenths of a second combining times over two runs.

“It doesn’t beat doing it here. I’ve been working hard,” Ford said on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA. “No secret, just kept it simple and really trusted what I was doing.”

Norwegians Henrik Kristoffersen and Leif Kristian Nestvold-Haugen were second and third. American Ted Ligety, fourth after the opening run, finished 11th.

Full results are here.

Ford became the first U.S. man to win a World Cup since Travis Ganong took a downhill on Jan. 27, 2017. He also became the first U.S. male podium finisher since Ligety in January 2018. Both were the longest droughts for the program since the late 1990s.

Ford, a 2010 and 2018 Olympian who missed the 2014 Olympics due to a broken femur, had been working toward this moment.

He finished a World Cup career-high fourth at the season-opening giant slalom in Soelden, Austria, on Oct. 27. Last season, the Oregon native and former Dartmouth student had a pair of fifths.

The men’s World Cup moves to Val d’Isere, France, next weekend for a giant slalom and slalom.

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Katie Ledecky wins race by 30 seconds, takes back No. 1 ranking

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In her last race of the year, Katie Ledecky ensured she would finish 2019 as the world’s fastest 1500m freestyler.

Ledecky clocked 15:35.98 at the U.S. Open in Atlanta, winning the longest event on the Olympic pool program by 29.97 seconds. Typical for Ledecky, who owns the nine fastest times in history. This one came in at No. 8. Full meet results are here.

Ledecky scratched the 1500m free final at the summer world championships due to illness. Italian Simona Quadarella went on to win that title in 15:40.89, which was the world’s fastest time this year until Saturday night.

“I didn’t have time on my mind at all today. I just wanted to have a consistent swim,” Ledecky, undefeated in 1500m free finals for nine years, said on NBCSN. “That’s probably the best mile that I’ve had in a while.”

The women’s 1500m freestyle debuts at the Olympics in Tokyo. Ledecky is expected to add that to her Rio Olympic individual lineup of 200m, 400m and 800m frees, assuming she is top two in each event at the June Olympic trials.

In other events Saturday, Erika Brown handed Simone Manuel a rare defeat in the 100m freestyle. Brown, a University of Tennessee senior, clocked 53.42 and lowered her personal best by .71 between prelims and the final. Brown moved from sixth to fourth in the U.S. rankings this year, upping her stock as a contender to make the Olympic 4x100m free relay pool via a top-six finish at trials.

Brown previously lowered her personal best in the 50m free on Thursday. She ranks third in the U.S. this year in that event.

Emily Escobedo dealt Lilly King a rare domestic defeat in the 200m breaststroke. Escobedo lowered her personal best by .87 and clocked 2:22.00, moving to seventh fastest in the world this year and remaining fourth among Americans.

In the men’s 200m breast, Olympic champion Dmitriy Balandin of Kazakhstan was beaten by Cody Miller, the Olympic 100m breast silver medalist. Both were slower than their best times this year.

The next significant swim meet is a Tyr Pro Series stop in Knoxville, Tenn., from Jan. 16-19.

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