Allyson Michelle Felix is an American track and field sprinter and the most decorated athlete, male or female, in World Athletics Championships history.
Allyson Felix was born in Los Angeles, California. She is the daughter of Paul, an ordained minister and professor of New Testament at The Master’s Seminary in Sun Valley, California, and Marlean, an elementary school teacher at Balboa Magnet Elementary. Her older brother Wes Felix is also a sprinter. He runs the 200 m, was the USA Junior Champion in 2002 and the Pac-10 champion in 2003 and 2004 while running for USC. Wes now acts as the agent for his sister. Felix describes her running ability as a gift from God, “For me, my faith is the reason I run. I definitely feel I have this amazing gift that God has blessed me with, and it’s all about using it to the best of my ability.”
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Allyson Felix attended Los Angeles Baptist High School in North Hills, California, where she was nicknamed “Chicken Legs” by her teammates, because the five-foot-six, 125-pound sprinter’s body had skinny legs despite her strength. Her slightness was seemingly at odds with her speed on the track and strength in the gym as while still in high school, she deadlifted at least 270 pounds. Felix credits much of her early success to her high school sprint coach, Jonathan Patton.
Felix began to discover her athletic talents after she tried out for track in the ninth grade. Just ten weeks after that first tryout, she finished seventh in the 200 m at the CIF California State Meet. In the coming seasons, she became a five-time winner at the meet. In 2001, at the Debrecan World Youth Championships, Felix achieved her first international title in the 100 meters. In 2003, she was named the national girls’ “High School Athlete of the Year” by Track and Field News. As a senior, Felix finished second in the 200 m at the US Indoor Track & Field Championships. A few months later, in front of 50,000 fans in Mexico City, she ran 22.11 seconds, the fastest in history for a high school girl (though it could not count as a world junior record because there was no drug testing at the meet).
Felix graduated in 2003, making headlines by forgoing college eligibility to sign a professional contract with Adidas. Adidas paid her an undisclosed sum and picked up her college tuition at the University of Southern California. She has since graduated with a degree in elementary education.
At the age of 18, Felix finished as the silver medalist in the 200 meters at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, behind Veronica Campbell of Jamaica; in doing so, she set a world junior record over 200 meters with her time of 22.18. After the race, Felix was seen in tears.
Felix became the youngest gold medalist sprinter in the 200 meters at the World Championships in Helsinki in 2005 and then successfully defended her title at Osaka two years later. At Osaka, Felix caught Jamaican Veronica Campbell on the bend and surged down the straight to finish in 21.81 seconds, lowering her own season-leading time by a massive 0.37 seconds. After the final she stated that “I feel so good, I am so excited. I have been waiting for so long to run such a time, to run under 22 seconds. it has not been an easy road, but finally I managed,” said Felix. At that time, she addressed her future, saying, “My next goal is not the world record, but a gold in Beijing. I want to take it step by step. I might consider to do both – the 200 and the 400 meters – there.” Felix became only the second female athlete after Marita Koch in 1983 to win three gold medals at a single IAAF World Championships in Athletics.
From 2003 to 2013, Felix specialized in the 200 meter sprint and gradually shifted to the 400 meter sprint later in her career. Her racing repertoire also spans the 100 meters, 4×100 meter relay, and 4×400 meter relay. At 200 meters, she is the 2012 Olympic champion, a three-time world champion (2005–2009), and two-time Olympic silver medalist (2004 and 2008). At 400 meters, she is the 2015 world champion, 2011 world silver medalist, 2016 Olympic silver medalist, 2017 world bronze medalist and 2020 Olympic bronze medalist.
Felix has won five additional Olympic gold medals as a member of the United States’ women’s relay teams: three at 4 × 400 meters (2008–2016), and two at 4 x 100 meters (2012 and 2016). The 2012 U.S. Olympic 4 x 100 meters team also set the women’s 4×100 meters world-record that still stands. Felix is the only female track and field athlete to ever win six Olympic gold medals, and is the most decorated female Olympian in track and field history, with a total of ten Olympic medals. Felix is also the most decorated athlete, male or female, in World Athletics Championships history with 18 career medals, and also has the most gold medals at 13.
Felix’s 200 meters best of 21.69 secs from 2012 ranks her seventh on the all-time list. In 2013, she broke the world best for the rarely contested 150 meters distance, running 16.36 secs. In the 4 × 400 metres relay at the 2015 World Championships, she ran the fastest split ever recorded by an American woman, and third fastest split ever after Jarmila Kratochvilova and Marita Koch, with 47.72. Felix is also a four time Diamond League winner. She is a participant in the US Anti-Doping Agency’s “Project Believe” program. She is coached by Bobby Kersee. Photo Credit: Getty