Exclusive: Olympian Allyson Felix On Celebrating Her Roles as Athlete, Mother & Activist

You may know Allyson Felix as one of the most decorated track and field athletes there is. She’s won six Olympic gold medals and 11 world championships. But being fast on the track is only one part of Allyson’s story.

Earlier this year, Allyson spoke out in a New York Times op-ed about sponsors’ refusal to support pregnant athletes while recovering from childbirth. She’d experienced severe preeclampsia while pregnant with her daughter and had an emergency C-section to deliver the baby in November 2018. After the birth, her sponsor at the time, Nike, wanted to pay her 70 percent less than before. She and two other Olympian runners, Alysia Montaño and Kara Goucher, took big risks in sharing their stories in hopes that it would change things in the future for female athletes.

That was not the end of the line for Allyson. In fact, Allyson recently signed a partnership with Athleta, in which she — among other things — is playing a key role in the brand’s 2020 Power of She campaign, which focuses on uniting and empowering women.

Now, when you go to Allyson’s website, you’re immediately greeted with an image that says in large letters: Athlete. Mother. Activist. Her brand-new partnership celebrates all those roles equally.

Allyson recently sat down with us to share the details on the partnership, as well as what’s she’s planning on dazzling us with next.

SheKnows: Congrats on your partnership with Athleta! Why was this the right fit for you?

Allyson Felix: Athleta’s mission aligns with passions of mine, and our values are extremely similar — empowering woman and girls is something that is extremely close to my heart, and I think that we’ll be able to have significant change and impact together. Those principles are right in line with my own feelings.

I just really love everything about Athleta but also how they want to redefine what sponsorship looks like, and how they treat an athlete, looking at them holistically as more than an athlete. In my case, that meant celebrating me as a mother, which is really special and different, and I just felt connected from the start.

I’m really excited to be in the campaign for 2020. We hope to have a lot other initiatives together as well, that all go back to empowering women and girls and really making a difference in that area.

SK: Why do you think it’s so important to empower girls and women to play sports?

AF: Sports have taught me so much — everything from work ethic to time management, dealing with failure and defeat and being able to learn lessons from them. And not just lessons that apply to sports, but that apply to life. Sports taught me so much about working together on a team, and I take those lessons into so many different life experiences. I truly feel like sports have changed my life, really helped me find my group of people and done a lot for my confidence. I understand the importance in all that, especially starting with young girls — sports can make a difference in their lives at a really young age and hopefully they can take that into other areas of their lives in the future.

SK: Now that you’re a mother, has your perspective on empowering women and girls changed?

AF: It definitely has. I’m always thinking now about my daughter and the world she is going to grow up in. One thing that I really love about this partnership is that the images she is going to see are images I can really be proud of. She’ll be able to see what an image of a healthy, real woman looks like. So I’m excited about that.

SK: What qualities are important to you in athletic wear?

AF: I want to not think about the gear that I’m in. I want no distractions. I want it to perform at the top of the line. I also want it to be beautiful, and I want it to function and be cutting edge, so I have everything that I need. I think it’s a combination of those things, and getting it all just right so that you can focus on performing your best.

SK: What is your favorite piece in the SuperSonic collection?

AF: I just actually raced my first race [since giving birth] and I was wearing the crop top and lightning short. I really love that. It performed great so I’ll have to go with that.

SK: You’ve accomplished so much as an Olympian, as an athlete, as a mother. Are there things that you haven’t crossed off your list that you hope to accomplish?

AF: There’s definitely more I want to accomplish on the track. I’m looking forward to the Olympics — that’s kind of the biggest thing on the horizon. I’m excited also to start thinking about my legacy and what I want to leave behind. And I think that really begins with this partnership. I hope I can be an example to women — especially to women in sports — that they can do things differently than they’ve been done in the past.

SK: There’s a lot of focus on getting girls to play sports, but what about women? Many of us have stopped playing sports over the years. How could getting back in the game benefit us?

AF: I think there are a number of different reasons sports can be beneficial for women. For a healthy lifestyle — it’s great just to be active — and then also for relationships. Sport has really cultivated some of my friendships and kept them growing and alive.

With sports and fitness, what’s most important is just making it enjoyable and being able to find something that works for you, whether it’s classes or being active with your family, whatever it might be for you. I think it’s important to keep that up.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

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