Six-time gold medalist Allyson Felix clinched her fifth Olympic berth on Sunday, in another milestone for the track legend who survived a life-threatening pregnancy and birth just over two years ago.
A stirring final kick by the 35-year-old mother put her into second place in the 400 meters at the U.S. track trials in Eugene, Oregon, qualifying Felix as an individual for the Tokyo games in what's surely the sweetest Olympic ticket of the speedster's storied career.
“I’m just proud of making it to this moment,” Felix said. “There’s so much that’s gone into this. Many times, I wasn’t sure if it was possible. I’m just proud of fighting and making a way somehow.”
Felix's 2-year-old daughter Camryn weighed 3 pounds, 7 ounces at birth on Nov. 28, 2018 before spending her first weeks of life in the neonatal intensive care unit. The Los Angeles native Felix underwent an emergency C-section at just 32 weeks pregnant.
Camryn, cradled in the arms of her dad and Felix's sprinter husband Kenneth Ferguson, was on hand at the University of Oregon's Hayward Field on Sunday to cheer on her speedy mom.
"It has been a fight to get here, and one thing I know how to do is fight, so I just wanted to do that all the way home," Felix told NBC after the race. "Today I thought about all the things. I thought about us fighting in the NICU, fighting for my life, fighting to get on this track.”
She'd already secured a ticket for Tokyo on the 400-meter relay team but Sunday's second-place finish in the 400 clinched her spot as an individual athlete.
Felix, from the outside No. 8 lane, got to an early lead but fell to fifth by the final turn. It took a big closing burst to elevate Felix to her Tokyo-qualifying second-place finish.
Felix's time of 50.02 seconds was just 0.24 behind Quanera Hayes, who also has a 2-year-old, and 0.01 ahead of Wadeline Jonathas. All three women are headed to Tokyo.
“I knew one thing was for sure. I was going to go down fighting to the line,” Felix said.
Even before the challenges of training during last year's pandemic, Felix said 2019 was also difficult as she secured a new sponsorship deal with Athleta, Gap's athletic-wear brand, which promised her “full protection during maternity."
“My first year back was a struggle, and I just kept getting hit with thing after thing,” Felix said. “There was the sponsorship battle, and I was just, ‘Man, I hope something comes together for me.’ I just kept fighting. I wanted to give it one more shot.”
On Father's Day, Felix said she hopes her road to Tokyo will be an inspiration to moms across the world.
“When they watch and see me, I hope they see it’s possible,” Felix said. “We’re going to keep fighting.”
Felix has been on the podium nine times and the Tokyo games will give her a chance to break a tie with Jamaica’s Merlene Ottey for the most medals by any female track athlete in Olympic history.
Ottey won her three silvers and six bronze medals during seven Olympic trips, dating back to Moscow in 1980.
Romanian discus thrower Lia Manoliu won a gold and two bronze medals in six games between 1952 and 1972.
British javelin thrower Tessa Sanderson won gold in 1984, in the third of her six Olympic appearances.