Not one to give up or take the easy road, Felix did all she could to return to the track and in just three months after the birth, she was back training. By October, she won her 12th and 13th world championship gold medals in Doha. As she said in an interview, “Society tells us that you have a child, and your best moments are behind you but that’s absolutely not the case. I’m a representation of that.”
In returning to sport as a new mother, Felix became an advocate for female athletes everywhere. She took on her own sponsor - Nike - by calling out the way they treat their female athletes. In doing so, it was revealed that the sportswear giant had refused Felix a contractual guarantee that they wouldn’t punish her financially if her performances dipped int he months either side of the birth. Testimony from Nike teammates Kara Goucher and Alysia Mantano led to a congressional inquiry which then forced Nike to bring in a new maternity policy for all its athletes. Even so, Felix found herself a new sponsor.
But even outside of sport, Felix has been a fierce champion for women. After researching more about pre-eclampsia, she discovered that the US has the highest rate of pregnancy-related deaths in the developed world, and that black women are almost four times more likely to die in childbirth than white women, regardless of income, education and geographic location. It was a shocking revelation, one that Felix read with great urgency. And so she testified about these problems in front of the US House Committee on Ways and means hearing on racial disparities in maternal health mortality. “My hope is that by sharing my experience with you it will continue a conversation that needs much more attention and support,” said Felix.
Now, with Tokyo just weeks away, Felix is continuing to champion causes greater than her own. In the recent Olympic qualifier, Felix was the only woman in the field in her 30s. Most said it couldn’t be done, that her Olympic dreams were merely a pipe dream. But over the last 50m of that qualifying race, Felix went from sixth to fifth to eventually finish second. She qualified for Tokyo.
Whether she wins or loses at the Tokyo Games seems redundant, simply making a fifth Games after all she’s been through is remarkable. But, should Felix win one more medal in Tokyo, she’ll come to equal Carl Lewis’s all-time record for an athlete from the US. Still, as Felix says herself, placing on the podium is a mere afterthought. “You do things with character, integrity, and you don’t give up, whether it’s winning or losing, no matter the outcome.”