Unsure if she’ll compete again, Allyson Felix has big plans for the future

Allyson Felix at the 2021 Met Gala. The 11-time Olympic medalist hasn't yet decided on retirement from track & field.
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Author’s note: On Wednesday night, Allyson Felix was named Individual Sportswoman of the Year by the Women’s Sports Foundation. 

Originally published: October 13, 2021

Since Allyson Felix returned home from the Tokyo Olympics – where she became the most decorated U.S. athlete in Olympic track & field history – the 11-time Olympic medalist has kept herself busy.

Between speaking appearances, launching shoe company Saysh (pronounced as one syllable with a long “a” sound), and spending time with her family and daughter Cammy, “I feel like I haven’t quite caught my breath yet,” Felix said in a zoom interview ahead of the Women’s Sports Foundation’s Annual Salute on Wednesday night.

Felix is also weighing an important decision: whether she wants to retire or continue competing for another year.

While the 35-year-old sprinter has said the Tokyo Games marked her last Olympic appearance, the 2022 World Championships in Eugene, Oregon, remain a possibility. It will mark the first time the United States hosts track & field’s world championships, the most important competition in the sport away from the Olympics.

While Felix says she is still “making those final decisions,” she notes that if she does want to compete in 2022, she would need to start ramping up her training soon.

“It still sounds very interesting to me,” she said. “[I’m] kind of just seeing if it’s going to be the move.”

She says her longtime coach, Bobby Kersee, has been less secretive about his goals for her.

“He’s been supportive of me doing another year, for sure,” Felix said. “He always is excited for new goals and new things to accomplish.”

While Felix’s near-term plans remain in flux, she is much more open about her long-term goals: making sure women feel empowered, supported, and able to make family planning decisions without risking their athletic careers.

“I always felt like I had to accomplish so much before I could even have the thought,” Felix said of her decision to become a mom.

“I don’t want other women to have that thought. If they want to wait, I think that’s amazing. But if they choose to have a child in the prime of their career, I think they should be able to be supported through that.”

In the lead up to the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, Felix partnered with her sponsor Athleta and the Women’s Sports Foundation to create the “Power of She” fund to help female athletes pay for childcare costs. Recipients in 2021 included Tokyo Olympian Aliphine Tuliamuk and Paralympian Lora Webster.

Webster competed at the Tokyo Paralympics – her fifth Games – while 20 weeks pregnant with her fourth child, while Tuliamuk made her Olympic debut seven months after giving birth to her daughter Zoe.

Felix said seeing Tuliamuk compete at the Olympics “definitely felt like progress.”

“The idea that women are making that decision – in the prime of their career – to have children, that’s huge,” she said.

Allyson Felix and her daughter Cammy celebrate on the track at U.S. Olympic Trials in June 2021
Eugene, Oregon – Allyson Felix and her daughter Cammy celebrate on the track at U.S. Olympic Trials in June 2021. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Felix knows that many of the challenges female athletes face aren’t due to malicious intent, but instead are the result of a system that wasn’t built with women in mind.

She hopes that Saysh – which she and her brother and business partner Wes co-founded in June – will lead the industry in helping support women.

“Some things aren’t even that hard [to fix], but because people at the table haven’t necessarily been thinking in that way, things aren’t always done,” Felix said. “If we’re going to encourage more women to make decisions – based on what they actually desire… then we need to support them and fix things.”

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Crystal Dunn returns to USWNT roster five months after giving birth

Nigeria v USWNT
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Crystal Dunn was named to the USWNT roster for two upcoming friendlies against England and Spain, marking her first official selection since giving birth to son Marcel in May.

Dunn made her NWSL return with the Portland Thorns earlier this month and also trained with the U.S. team as a non-rostered player ahead of friendlies vs. Nigeria.

In addition to Dunn, the 24-player roster features a veteran core of Alyssa Naeher, Becky Sauerbrunn, Rose Lavelle, Lindsey Horan, Mallory Pugh, and Megan Rapinoe.

Alex Morgan was not named to the USWNT roster due to a knee injury. While U.S. head coach Vlatko Andonovski did not provide details of the injury, he noted that “if this was a World Cup final, Alex was going to be on this trip and was going to play, no question.”

Other roster highlights include 17-year-old Alyssa Thompson, who becomes the first player born in 2004 to receive a USWNT call-up. Thomas, a high senior, plays club soccer for the U-17 Total Futbol Academy boys’ team.

“We are very excited for her, very excited about her potential and qualities and looking forward to seeing how she will turn out in our environment,” Andonovski said of Thompson. “This camp is not make it or break it. It’s a first experience for her, it’s just something that she shouldn’t even worry about.”

The USWNT also includes a handful of players who have made their USWNT breakthrough this season — thanks in part to both strong NWSL play and injuries to more veteran players. That list includes the likes of Naomi Girma (7 caps), Taylor Kornieck (5 caps), Hailie Mace (5 caps), Sam Coffey (1 cap), and Savannah DeMelo (0 caps).

Andonovski on Thursday called Coffey, a midfielder for the Portland Thorns, a candidate for NWSL MVP.

USWNT Roster for October 2022 Friendlies vs. England and Spain

Goalkeepers (3):

  • Aubrey Kingsbury (Washington Spirit)
  • Casey Murphy (North Carolina Courage)
  • Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars)


  • Alana Cook (OL Reign)
  • Crystal Dunn (Portland Thorns FC)
  • Emily Fox (Racing Louisville FC)
  • Naomi Girma (San Diego Wave FC)
  • Sofia Huerta (OL Reign)
  • Hailie Mace (Kansas City Current)
  • Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns FC)

Midfielders (8):

  • Sam Coffey (Portland Thorns FC)
  • Savannah DeMelo (Racing Louisville FC)
  • Lindsey Horan (Olympique Lyon, FRA)
  • Taylor Kornieck (San Diego Wave FC)
  • Rose Lavelle (OL Reign)
  • Kristie Mewis (NJ/NY Gotham FC)
  • Ashley Sanchez (Washington Spirit)
  • Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit)

Forwards (6):

  • Ashley Hatch (Washington Spirit)
  • Mallory Pugh (Chicago Red Stars)
  • Megan Rapinoe (OL Reign)
  • Trinity Rodman (Washington Spirit)
  • Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns FC)
  • Alyssa Thompson (Total Futbol Academy)

Follow Alex Azzi on Twitter @AlexAzziNBC

Justine Wong-Orantes’ atypical path to becoming one of the best liberos in the world

Justine Wong-Orantes hits the ball in the women's semi-final volleyball match between USA and Serbia during the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
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It’s been 20 years since the same nation held both the Olympic and world volleyball titles at the same time, but libero Justine Wong-Orantes is looking to help lead Team USA accomplish that very feat at the 2022 FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championships in the Netherlands and Poland. Competition began on Friday and the U.S. is currently 2-0 after group play wins against Kazakhstan and Canada.

“We’re trying to win, for sure,” Wong-Orantes told On Her Turf. “I think, especially with the new turn of the program and the new year of the quad, we just have a really nice blend of veterans and also newcomers on the team.”

The 14-woman roster for Team USA, which is ranked No. 1 in the world and won its first Olympic title last summer, features six players from that gold-medal-winning team. And while Wong-Orantes is among the 2021 U.S. Olympic team veterans, she’s still a relative newcomer to international play.

The Southern California native enjoyed a notable junior career – she was 12 when she became the youngest female to ever earn an AAA rating in beach volleyball – and was a standout collegian at Nebraska, where she was a member of the 2015 NCAA championship team. But Wong-Orantes followed a different path upon graduation, initially choosing not to go overseas to play professionally.

While she was first selected for the U.S. national team in 2016 and played a handful of international tournaments in the following years, it wasn’t until she started playing professionally in Germany in 2019 that she saw the potential to elevate her position on the roster. In particular, the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Olympics gave her an additional year of overseas experience, which she calls “a blessing in disguise.”

“I just felt like I was still in that developmental stage,” she said. “And a whole year postponement allowed me to go overseas and really get all the touches, all the repetitions, and just kind of expose myself to international volleyball another year. So I was, in hindsight, pretty thankful for that COVID season because I got an extra year under my belt, and I think that just gave me a ton of confidence.”

Ahead of the Olympics, Wong-Orantes earned “best libero” honors at the 2021 FIVB Volleyball National League in Rimini, Italy, which helped secure her spot on the Olympic roster. In Tokyo, she followed up with another standout performance and was named best libero of the Olympic tournament.

As to how the Wong-Orantes transformed into one of the world’s top liberos, she points to her background as a beach volleyball player. She began competing at age 8, and her first partner was Sara Hughes, a star on the AVP Pro Tour who also won two NCAA titles with USC.

“I think having that background and just the court awareness that beach volleyball forces you to have allowed me to really have a good read on the game,” said Wong-Orantes. “I think that’s what makes a great libero is just reading and always being reactive towards the ball.”

Wong-Orantes also credits the assistance of mental coach Sue Enquist, a former UCLA softball coach and U.S. national team coach, who now helps teams work on their culture and relationships. Enquist began working with the U.S. volleyball team during the pandemic and has continued in her role ever since.

“We just worked on a lot of stuff within ourselves, within our program, how to communicate with each other off the court, and I think that honestly propelled us into such a high, high level with how we worked with each other, and then that transferred onto the court,” explained Wong-Orantes, who noted the team has Enquist on speed dial while at the World Championship. “I really commend Sue. I just really give a lot of praise to her because I think our culture was never bad, but I think [she] just transformed into a different level.”

2022-09-26 - FIVB Volleyball Womens World Championship 2022 - Day 4
ARNHEM, NETHERLANDS – Justine Wong-Orantes (far right) poses for a photo with her U.S. teammates after defeating Canada at the 2022 FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship on September 26, 2022. (Photo by Rene Nijhuis/Orange Pictures/BSR Agency/Getty Images)

Wong-Orantes said she and her U.S. teammates are on their toes for the world championships, which features twice as many teams (24) as the Olympics and a “more grueling” format.

“It’s going to be a long tournament, and I think we’re really going to need all 14 of us that are here. I’m pretty certain that, at any given moment, someone’s going to be called on and someone’s going to need to step up in big moments.”