Just 10 months after giving birth, Olympic sprinter Allyson Felix broke one of Usain Bolt’s records.
The six-time Olympic gold medalist was part of the winning U.S. quartet in the first world championships mixed-gender 4x400m relay, an event that makes its Olympic debut next year.
The win caused her to break her tie with Bolt for the most gold medals in world championships history—a total of 12.
The victory might feel even sweeter for the decorated track and field athlete because it comes on the heels of another, more politically-charged win.
During her pregnancy with her daughter and after giving birth Camryn on November 28, 2018, Felix clashed with Nike over their lack of maternal protection. In December 2017, after seven years with the brand, her contract had expired without being renewed, in part because the two parties didn’t agree on pay protection for pregnancy.
She told the NY Times that for most her life she was focused on one thing — winning medals. But by age 32 and as one of the most decorated athletes in history and an 11-time world champion, she wanted to be a professional athlete and a mother.
She entered the realm of motherhood knowing that pregnancy can be “the kiss of death” in her industry and felt pressure to return to form as soon as possible after the birth of her daughter. This came after she had to undergo an emergency C-section at 32 weeks because of severe pre-eclampsia that threatened both lives.
Meanwhile, negotiations were not going well for Felix as Nike wanted to pay 70 percent less than before.
But Felix summed up her response to the honour in one word, “humbled,” on Twitter.
Another big accomplishment for Felix, is that this is her first season as a mother. SO intended or not, not only is Felix going to her fifth Olympic games, but in August the new mom was part of the high profile movement that pressured Nike to change it’s long-standing maternity policies for its sponsored athletes.
Along with decorated women runners — including Alysia Montaño, Kara Goucher and Phoebe Wright — Felix successfully got the brand to adapt its policy which now ensures female athletes won’t be “adversely impacted financially due to pregnancy” for 18 months, which is six months more than under the previous policy.
Felix is now the first athlete to be sponsored by Athleta, according to parent company Gap, Inc.
Now the world can watch Felix run in Tokyo for the 2020 Olympics while her accomplishment is expected to have reverberating effects for female athletes and, with hope, women in other industries, as well.