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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Regan Smith swims another historic backstroke time at Pro Series meet

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Regan Smith, who last summer broke both backstroke world records, put up the fastest 100m back in history outside of a major international meet or trials competition on Saturday.

Smith, a 17-year-old Minnesota high school senior, clocked 58.26 seconds to win at a Pro Series meet in Knoxville, Tenn. It tied for the 12th-fastest time in history. None of the other fastest dozen came in January, six months out from when swimmers peak for the world’s biggest events like the Olympics.

Making it more impressive: Smith did it 27 minutes after finishing second in the 200m butterfly, which she’s also expected to contest at June’s Olympic trials in Omaha.

“It actually wasn’t as bad, as I was nervous it was going to be,” Smith, whose world record is 57.57, said of the double on NBCSN. Smith entered two events per day at the three-day Knoxville meet, in part to prepare for the trials, where she is slated to race six straight days in a bid to make the Olympic team in enough events to swim eight straight days in Tokyo.

On Saturday, Smith held off fellow 17-year-old Phoebe Bacon by six tenths. Bacon beat Smith at the U.S. Open in December, posting the second-fastest time among Americans in the event for 2019.

The teen emergence puts pressure on Kathleen Baker, the Rio Olympic silver medalist who had the world record before Smith took it at worlds.

Full Knoxville results are here. USASwimming.org live streams the last night of finals Sunday at 6:30 ET.

In other events Saturday, world silver medalist Hali Flickinger overcame Smith in the 200m fly, winning in 2:08.34. Smith, third-fastest among Americans last season, was .39 behind. The second-fastest American last year, Katie Drabot, was not in the field. The top two at trials make the Olympic team.

Erika Brown beat world champion Simone Manuel in a freestyle sprint for a second straight meet, taking the 50m free in 24.57 seconds.

Brown, a University of Tennessee senior, edged Manuel by .06 and took .01 off her personal best. Brown ranked third among Americans last year behind Manuel (24.05) and Abbey Weitzeil (24.47).

Brown also defeated Manuel in the 100m free at the U.S. Open in December, moving to fourth-fastest in the U.S. last year in that event. The top six in the 100m free at trials are in line to make the Olympic team, given relay spots.

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Mikaela Shiffrin nearly makes it three-way tie for World Cup win

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Mikaela Shiffrin came .01 shy of making it a three-way tie for a World Cup giant slalom win on Saturday, confirming GS has been the most up-for-grabs discipline for either gender in recent years.

Shiffrin, beaten in her last two slaloms, had the fastest second run to place third behind co-winners Italian Federica Brignone and Slovakian Petra Vlhova in Sestriere, Italy. The reigning Olympic and World Cup champion in the GS rallied from fourth place and .42 behind after the first run.

Shiffrin still leads the World Cup overall standings by 233 points over Vlhova. The American last won Dec. 29. Though she made the podium in three of her four races since, Shiffrin expressed a lack of confidence heading into this weekend’s races at the 2006 Olympic venue.

“The most exciting thing for me is that people have stopped asking me, like, are you unbeatable?” said Shiffrin, who won a record 17 World Cup races last season and has four victories nearly halfway through this season, tied with Vlhova for most on tour. “I feel really good in GS. It’s just been a long time since [the last GS on Dec. 28].”

Vlhova earned her third victory this month after beating Shiffrin those last two slaloms. Brignone leads the GS season standings by 61 points over Shiffrin, seeking to become the sixth different woman to win that discipline title in the last six years. There are four more GS races left this season.

It’s the second straight season with a World Cup GS tie. Last Feb. 1, Shiffrin and Vlhova tied in Maribor, Slovenia.

It’s the first time the top three finishers were separated by such a small margin since the last three-way tie for a win in 2006, when Lindsey VonnMichaela Dorfmeister and Nadia Styger had the same super-G time, and fourth-place Kelly VanderBeek was .01 behind.

“Last season, I had the lucky side of the hundredths many times, so sometimes I’m not going to be on the lucky side, too,” said Shiffrin, who had three victories by .16 or tighter last season.

World Cup racing continues with a parallel giant slalom on Sunday at 5:45 a.m. ET on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA and streaming on NBC Sports Gold.

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