She's been to hell and back: A year in the life of Allyson Felix, the world's most decorated female athlete

Allyson Felix became a mother and found a voice off the track (PA Images)
13:06pm, Wed 09 Oct 2019
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Allyson Felix, the most decorated female athlete in history has had a rollercoaster year -from motherhood, to campaigning for maternity rights and finally adding to her gold medal collection at the World Championships.

At Doha the American won her 12th and 13th world gold medals, just 10 months after giving birth and in the process broke Usain Bolt's medal haul of 11 golds. 

To mark her incredible year, here's a NewsChain timeline of the ups and downs of Allyson Felix's magical last 12 months.

Allyson Felix with her daughter Camryn in Doha at the World Championships (Allyson Felix Twitter)

Motherhood began:

The nine-time Olympic medalist gave birth to her daughter Camryn in November 2018. But it was a problematic pregnancy. Felix suffered from pre-eclampsia, a life-threatening condition for both herself and the baby. She was experiencing high blood pressure whilst her daughter's heart rate was decelerating. Following an emergency caesarean, mother and daughter spent the following month in intensive care.

Quizzed about a return to the track, she said: "It's amazing how quickly your priorities change in moments like this. I didn't care if I ever ran track again. I was just praying she would be OK."

She added: "Mothers don’t die from childbirth, right? Not in 2019, not professional athletes, not at one of the best hospitals in the country and certainly not to women who have a birthing plan and a birthing suite lined up. 

"I thought maternal health was solely about fitness, resources and care. If that was true, then why was this happening to me?"

Allyson Felix used her platform in Congress to speak about maternity issues for the first time (PA Images)

Felix took to Congress:

During her early days of motherhood Felix became an active campaigner.

In May 2019 she testified at a hearing in front of Congress's House, Ways and Means Committee about the need for public health reform. She spoke about the black maternal crisis where '700 women [from the US] were dying from complications due to pregnancy each year'.

The condition is particular common among African American and Native American mothers. 

She spoke out about others just like her, saying: "Black [women] just like me, healthy like me, doing their best - just like me. They faced death like me, too and I started to talk to more of those women and hear about their experiences."

During the hearing she said: "I was not aware, I was completely not educated on this topic. I wasn't happy to go through what I went through, but I was thankful to come out and learn so much.

"I have a platform, and I'm going to use it."

Allyson Felix was one of Nike's most marketed athletes (PA Images)

Nike maternity campaign:

Felix didn't stop there. She then highlighted her sponsor, Nike's, maternity rights policy, whereby they announced they would pay the 33 year-old 70 per cent less for a contract after she gave birth. 

She recalled it as a "terrifying time" because she was negotiating the renewal of the contract which ended in December 2017.  

During this time she asked Nike for a "contract guarantee" that if she didn't perform well on the track [after giving birth] that Nike wouldn't penalise her, but the $29.6 billion company refused. 

She said: "If I, one of Nike's most widely marketed athletes, couldn't secure these protections, who could?

"Ever since I was a teenager growing up in the sport, silence is what I saw. Whether it was team-mates or other women, it would just be [kept] under wraps. It was only once they had secured a contract they would make their pregnancy public.

"I had seen it time and time again so it got to the point where I didn't even question it, I just thought: 'Oh, that is how things are done.' Until I found myself in that situation. And then I thought: 'This is not the way things should be done and this is not right'."

Allyson Felix returned to the track just eight months after an emergency cesarean (PA Images)

First race back:

In July, just eight months after giving birth Felix returned to the track and competed in the USA's outdoor national championships. She reached the final in the 400m and finished in sixth place. 

Of her performance she said then: "It felt rusty. Kind of to be expected. It's not quite up to my standards. 

"Even though it wasn't a great result for me, it's a starting point. My biggest goal is next year [Tokyo 2020]. Now I have time on my side. I can get where I need to go.

"I want to be back in the Olympics. Being in this environment and being back in a final, it kind of got the juices flowing. It's going to be a lot easier going into next year and getting a full year of training."

Allyson Felix cut ties with Nike and signed up with Athleta (PA Images)

Sponsorship move:

Felix ended up cutting ties with Nike and several days later announced her new sponsorship deal with clothing company Athleta. 

She is the first professional athlete to be sponsored by Athleta and was attracted by their aim to "empower women and girls through sport".

When she met them in LA she added: "For the first time, I felt more than just an athlete. I had been waiting for the perfect situation. And I felt like this was the perfect match."

Following her move, Nike announced that women will "no longer be financially penalised for having a child."

In their official statement they said: "Female athletes and their representatives will begin receiving written confirmation reaffirming Nike's official pregnancy policy for elite athletes.

"In addition to our 2018 policy standardising our approach across all sports to ensure no female athlete is adversely impacted financially for pregnancy, the policy has now been expanded to cover 18 months."

Preparation for the World Championships:

Felix took part in the famous Great City Run games in early September. She competed in the 150m at the pop up track in Stockton against Britain's Ashleigh Nelson and Beth Dobbin and ran a time of 17.37 seconds. 

Allyson Felix running in the second leg of the 4x400m in Doha (PA Images)

World Championships in Doha:

On her return to her seventh world championships she was part of Team USA's mixed gender 4x400m team that won gold. 

"Last Christmas when I was in hospital I could not have believed at all that I would be here in Doha winning medals."

USA also won the 4x400m women relay final which Felix was part of, boosting her gold medals to 13.