She now has more world championships gold medals than the fastest man in history.

By Renee Cherry
October 03, 2019
Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Ten months after giving birth via emergency C-section, Allyson Felix has broken a record held by retired sprinter Usain Bolt, aka the fastest man in the world. Felix was on the U.S. Track & Field team that won the mixed-gender 4x400m relay at the track and field World Championships in Qatar. Following her team's victory, Felix now has the most gold medals in world championships of any track athlete: 12 compared to Bolt's 11. (Related: Why Record-Breaking Olympic Runner Allyson Felix Is Breaking Her Silence)

As someone who's spent recent months championing women's abilities in sports, Felix is pleased with the distinction. Not only does she take pride in the accomplishment itself, but she says it also feels good to know that this record isn't separated into gender-based categories. "This isn't a men's record or a women's record," she tells Shape. "It's just the record. I'm proud of that."

ICYDK, the runner cemented her status as a legend well before she broke Bolt's record. She's currently tied with Merlene Ottey for the female track athlete with the most Olympic medals, though six of Felix's medals are gold while Ottey has earned silver and bronze medals.

Felix has made a name for herself—and she definitely hasn't wasted her influence as a track star. She's recently shed light on the inequalities female athletes often face if they decide to give birth, particularly when it comes to how much they're paid. Felix herself had a baby girl last year, and she had to undergo an emergency C-section because of preeclampsia, a condition in pregnancy characterized by dangerously high blood pressure. In May, Felix and fellow Olympic runner Alysia Montaño wrote op-eds for the New York Times, sharing their own experiences with these inequalities. In her piece, Felix revealed that when she was negotiating a renewal of her contract with Nike, the company insisted on a 70 percent pay cut. "If that's what they think I'm worth now [after giving birth], I accept that," Felix wrote. The athletes fueled a discussion, and ultimately Nike changed its policy to protect female athletes' pay both during and after pregnancy. (Related: This Tip from Allyson Felix Will Help You Hit Your Long-Term Goals Once and for All)

Felix made a convincing argument about why new moms shouldn't get penalized in pro sports. But if there were any lingering doubts, her latest record-breaking win certainly helped prove her point that becoming a mom isn't a "kiss of death" for a pro athlete. The same can be said for Jamaica's Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, whom Felix shared a moment with after the most recent world championships. Like Felix, Fraser-Pryce has continued to dominate after giving birth to her son Zyon two years ago: She recently became the oldest woman to win a world title in track. "What she's done is amazing," Felix told the LA Times. "She's had a hard road, too. She keeps encouraging me. Her first year wasn't the best, but her second year, she's better than ever. Women are amazing and she's leading the way."

Felix seems to be generally stoked about women who are making waves in sports. "Right now is a pivotal time," she recently told us. "We're hearing a lot of women speak out, like the women's soccer team, and I feel encouraged and inspired by it. It's about the power of the collective and empowering women to speak up and speak their truth as they do amazing things in all different fields." (Related: Why the Controversy Over the U.S. Women's Soccer Team's Winning Celebration Is Total BS)

Felix says her latest record-breaking win proves a point she's been trying to drive home for years. "It helped me to believe my own messaging even more. Women really are so incredible and capable. We can do it all, and I want every woman to know that her dreams are possible and they matter. I wasn't sure if I was going to make it back on top of the podium to win a medal again, but I set goals and worked toward them every day."


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