Athletics

Allyson Felix: Five things you don’t know

Six-time Olympic gold medallist Allyson Felix is one of the greatest sprinters ever. Did you know the famous mum’s first love was basketball? That and more.

By Nick McCarvel ·

A basketball-loving 15-year-old got the nickname “chicken legs” from her new track teammates in the ninth grade. Twenty years later she’d be known as one of the greatest sprinters of all time.

American Allyson Felix is tied for the most Olympic medals in athletics history with nine, while also being the most decorated competitor at the IAAF World Championships (18 medals; 13 of them gold).

While the mid-30s megastar sets her sights on more hardware in Tokyo, she’s a busy mum, outspoken magazine cover fixture and… master baker? Yes, master baker.

That and more about four-time Olympian below.

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1 – Hard-earned hardware

“Everyone sees the glory moments, but they don’t see what happens behind the scenes.”

So goes the Allyson quote on her Olympic Channel bio, and it’s one that Felix obviously lives by, having worked hard for some two decades to amass the medal collection she has.

Having won silver in the 200m at both Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008, Felix broke away from the field to capture the gold in London 2012, her lone individual title at the Olympics.

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Her other five Olympic golds have come on the Team USA relay front, including three consecutive 4x400m wins, Felix serving as the anchor for the Rio 2016 squad.

At the world championships, however, she stands alone (move over, Usain Bolt!) as the most successful athlete at the event, though her golds in the 4x400m relay and the 4x400m mixed gender relay in 2019 in Doha were especially special: They were won less than a year after giving birth to daughter Camryn.

2 – Allyson Felix, super mom

Speaking of Camryn, have you seen how outstandingly adorable she is? Here, let us help.

Camryn was born in November 2018 via emergency C-section following complications for Allyson prior to birth, the newborn spending nearly a month in intensive care.

In 2019, Felix became an outspoken advocate for mothers in pro sports, speaking out against unfair treatment by sponsor Nike and writing in the New York Times, "If I can’t secure maternity protections, who can?"

Camryn has become a mainstay on Felix’s social media channels, making her own (track) debut in January of 2019.

“Being a black mother is such a beautiful privilege, but it’s also a sobering responsibility,” Felix wrote on Instagram in the summer of 2020.

“Our world is showing how important the home is. How important it is not only to shower our babies with love, but to teach them to love others intentionally, and with no regard for colour, gender or any other difference we may have with someone.”

Let’s just do one more Camryn photo because… how could we not?!

3 – Hoops dreamin’

While Felix earned the aforementioned nickname “chicken legs” when she joined the high school track team, her first sporting love was actually basketball. At age 12, growing up in Southern California, she bought a Kobe Bryant jersey, saying she was a fan of the late basketball legend “from the beginning.”

Playing a sport like basketball, she wrote in February 2020, “gave me confidence, taught me work ethic, leadership, how to deal with failure, the value of teamwork and countless other invaluable lessons I still rely on today.”

“I can jump pretty good,” a smiling Felix said at a 2012 basketball charity event when asked what kind of ball player she’d be today. “So, I think my strength would be in rebounding.”

4 – Cinnamon rolls, anyone?

Sure, Felix takes her nutrition seriously as a four-time Olympian, but she’s also been open about indulgences in the kitchen, as well as her love for cooking and baking.

Her favourites? “Enchiladas, catfish, chicken and steak,” she told the Chicago Tribune in 2011. “And cinnamon rolls.”

"My training partners must think I'm out to get them because I'm always bringing them [fattening] treats," she told Sports Illustrated in 2012.

In 2019 at the espnW summit, Julie Foudy knew of Felix’s claimed love for the bakery it, asking her: “Is a cinnamon roll a donut?” “No,” Felix replied to the football champion, laughing.

5 – Got it covered

While the cinnamon roll question was far from serious, Felix has seriously become a household name in the U.S., and with that done a slew of magazine covers, addressing everything from her Olympic records to motherhood to the Black Lives Matter movement.

In recent years, that’s included SELF, Women’s Running, Parents and Harper’s Bazaar among others.

Felix, since speaking out against Nike, hasn’t shied away from controversy. In June 2020 she wrote in a column for fashion magazine Glamour:

“As we look toward our next chapter, I hope to represent women overcoming adversity. My daughter has taught me to use my voice—she has taught me that speaking out isn’t just important but necessary.”