Allyson Felix

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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Justin Gatlin pulls up in 100m race, three weeks before world champs

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Justin Gatlin pulled up, grabbing his left leg in a 100m in Zagreb, Croatia, on Tuesday, three weeks before he defends his world 100m title in Doha.

Later tests on his hamstring were negative, and he was expected to return to training later this week, his manager said, according to Reuters.

Gatlin similarly trotted across the finish line of a 200m in Grenada on April 13 after grabbing at his left thigh. His manager said then that it was a cramp. He reportedly suffered a right hamstring injury in a May 2018 relay, too.

Gatlin came back this summer to break 10 seconds in three straight meets, becoming a medal favorite for the world championships behind countryman Christian Coleman.

But last week he was fourth at the Diamond League Finals in Zurich, his worst result this season, putting into question his status as the top challenger to Coleman.

Earlier Tuesday, Allyson Felix placed second in the 400m in 51.67 behind world champion Phyllis Francis, who clocked 51.02. Felix raced her second meet since Nov. 28 childbirth by emergency C-section.

Felix is expected to be at worlds, marking her record-breaking ninth world outdoors team. She currently shares the U.S. record of eight teams with retired high jumper Amy Acuff, according to the OlyMADMen.

Felix could be in the 4x400m and mixed-gender 4x400m relay pools but not the individual 400m at worlds, given she placed sixth at the USATF Outdoor Championships in July. Her best time this season, from the USATF Outdoors semifinals, is 51.45, ranking her 40th in the world this year.

MORE: Allyson Felix finds maternity protection with new apparel sponsor

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Allyson Felix finds maternity protection with new apparel sponsor

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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.

MORE: Dalilah Muhammad breaks world record after ‘freak’ concussion

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