Felix’s legacy grows as retirement looms: ‘When people think track, they think Allyson’

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If you want to understand the impact Allyson Felix had on the track during her two-decade pro career, look no further than her teammates.

“Allyson Felix was definitely the first female athlete that I looked up to,” says high jumper Vashti Cunningham, who was five years old the year Felix turned pro.

“When people think track, they think Allyson,” adds 400m hurdles world record holder Sydney McLaughlin.

Felix, 36, will compete at her 10th — and final — world championships this month. Already the most decorated athlete in track & field world championship history, the 18-time world medalist has a chance to bolster that count when competition opens on Friday at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon. Felix, who finished sixth in the 400m at last month’s U.S. Championships, is expected to compete in at least one relay.

Ahead of World Championships, NBC Sports documented Felix’s legacy — both on and off the track — in a new feature (video embedded above).

“She’s probably not the most outspoken person, she’s probably the most poised and she knew what she wanted,” says Noah Lyles. “I can see a lot of little girls — and even boys — looking at that and saying, ‘That’s a strong individual, a strong Black individual, that I want to model my life after.'”

Felix hasn’t always been the loudest athlete in the mixed zone, but her activism flourished following the birth of her daughter Cammy in 2018.

That experience — and the complications that came with it — led to everything from her public fight with Nike over maternity protections to her Congressional testimony about racial disparities in maternal mortality to her decision this summer to partner with sponsors to provide free child care at select track & field events.

“I had to find my voice, I had to find that confidence to speak out on things that I’m passionate about, on things that I know to be right,” Felix says.

“I think before, I was always concerned with medals and times — and that’s what I wanted to leave behind. In the space I’m in now, I want to leave the sport better than I found it.”

Follow Alex Azzi on Twitter @AlexAzziNBC