Aug 7, 2021
ESPN News Services
Allyson Felix knows the way to the Olympic medals stand better than any runner alive.
She made her record-setting 11th trip there Saturday, after starring as the headliner on a 4×400 relay win that featured a who’s-who of American running.
With the gold medal dangling from her neck and “The Star-Spangled Banner” playing in the near-empty stadium, “I took a moment just to close my eyes and take it in one last time,” Felix said.
Felix ran the second leg along with Sydney McLaughlin, Dalilah Muhammad and Athing Mu to finish in 3 minutes, 16.85 seconds and win by nearly 4 seconds over Poland (3:20.53). Jamaica (3:21.24) took bronze.
Felix, who a day earlier took bronze in the 400 meters to become the most-decorated woman in Olympic track, has no plans to go any further. In her mind, as a sprinter at least, she has nothing left to prove.
“I feel at peace,” Felix said. “I went out, had all the confidence in these amazing women. I wanted to take it all in one last time around, and it was special.”
Minutes after the women’s relay win, the U.S. men also claimed their first gold in a track race at these Games in the final event on the Olympic oval with a victory in the 4×400-meter relay.
There were no bad exchanges this time. The U.S. men didn’t reach the final of the 4×100-meter relay, but the 4×400 team of Michael Cherry, Michael Norman, Bryce Deadmon and Rai Benjamin was never really in trouble while completing four laps of the Olympic oval in 2:55.70. It was a fifth gold for the U.S. men in the 4×400 since 1996.
The Netherlands took silver in a national-record 2:57.18, and Botswana won bronze in 2:57.27.
Felix’s 11th career Olympic medal broke a tie with Carl Lewis for the U.S. track and field record. Finnish distance runner Paavo Nurmi holds the world mark with 12 medals from 1920 to 1928.
Of Felix’s 11 medals, seven are gold and six have come in relays.
The win came on McLaughlin’s 22nd birthday and gave her another gold to go with the one she captured when she set a world record (51.46) in the 400-meter hurdles earlier in the week. Muhammad, who finished second in the hurdles, and Mu, the teenager who won gold in the 800, also added to their medal tally.
“I was just honored,” Muhammad said of her reaction when she was presented with Saturday’s eclectic lineup. “Of course she earned it, but she’s so deserving of it too. I’ve just been inspired by her throughout my entire career.”
It wasn’t so much the win that was in doubt but the world record of 3:15.17, set at the 1988 Seoul Games in the last relay the Soviet Union ran as an Olympic team.
By the time Mu collected the baton from Muhammad for the anchor lap, the record was out of reach. But the win was in the bag.
The four sprinters huddled and hugged. Felix is 35 and has detailed her long struggle simply to make the Tokyo Olympics. Mu turned 19 this summer, and there’s a chance she will need a mighty big medals case by the time her career winds down.
Felix still plans to sound an active voice for women, especially for mothers who too often hear what she heard when she got pregnant with her now 2-year-old daughter, Cammy: That once women start having babies, their best athletic days are behind them.
“I feel like I have no regrets,” Felix said. “I feel like I’ve given my all to this sport, and there’s nothing left on this Olympic stage I need to do now.”
Her last pass of the baton was also a passing of the torch, she said, as she nodded to the three women beside her, “and now they’re taking this into the future and it’s in very good hands.”
The U.S. has won a total of 26 track and field medals — seven gold — with only the men’s marathon remaining Sunday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.