In a story fit for Hollywood, five-time Olympian Allyson Felix concluded her illustrious Olympic career Saturday in Tokyo by propelling a dream-team United States women's 4x400m relay squad to its seventh straight gold, capturing her 11th medal to surpass Carl Lewis as the most decorated U.S. Olympic track and field athlete of all time.
The 35-year-old mother made her Games debut in Athens at age 18, capturing a silver medal in the 200m. It wasn't until her next Olympic appearance in Beijing where she'd earn her initial gold, first repeating her silver in the 200m before running the second leg on Team USA's title-winning 4x400m relay. Thirteen years later, she wins her seventh gold in the same event she won her first – running the same leg – alongside two of the sport's youngest superstars.
Sydney McLaughlin, 400m hurdles gold medalist and world record-holder, led off with a 49-second leg in lane seven to give the U.S. an early lead. Felix, the second leg, broke to the inside and held the gap, passing off to 400m hurdles silver medalist and reigning world champion Dalilah Muhammad, who shot off like a rocket. Athing Mu, 800m gold medalist and 400m collegiate record-holder, anchored the team home for gold in 3:16.85, splitting a blistering 48.3.
Felix won bronze Friday in her final individual Olympic race, coming from behind in the open 400m to finish in 49.46 and clinch her 10th medal, breaking a tie with Jamaican Merlene Ottey for most decorated woman in Olympic track and field history.
Team USA’s prelim squad – Kaylin Whitney, Wadeline Jonathas, Kendall Ellis and Lynna Irby – clocked 3:20.86 out of heat two to advance the U.S. to the final as the top seed.
McLaughlin and Muhammad were part of USA’s title-winning final team at 2019 World Championships, running the second and third legs. Felix clocked a 49.8 second leg in the prelims, and the title gave her 13 golds and 18 total medals at the world championships.
Felix became the most decorated U.S. woman in Olympic track and field history in Rio, earning a seventh medal with silver in the 400m, then her eighth and ninth with golds in the relays. The two titles, her fifth and sixth, gave her the most by a woman in Olympic track and field history.
Since Rio, Felix gave birth to daughter Camryn in November 2018 via emergency C-section. She returned to the track in mid-2019 and surpassed Usain Bolt for most career world titles at the world championships. She also became a vocal advocate for issues including contract protections for female athletes and racial disparities in maternal health care.
After her bronze Friday, Felix offered a message to her 32-month-old daughter:
"Tonight, the lesson that I want her to know is that no matter what it feels is stacked against you, you go out with character and integrity, you give your all, and that's all anybody else can ask of you, and you're proud with that," she said in a video call from Tokyo. "I hope that, years down the way, that she understands that."