Allyson Felix didn’t know exactly how she wanted to start or finish her farewell tour.
She knew the Tokyo Games would mark her last Olympic appearance. She won her 11th career medal in an empty stadium, surpassing Carl Lewis to become the most decorated U.S. track and field athlete in Olympic history.
Deciding to do just one more season was “actually more difficult than I thought,” she said in an interview. “A lot of people were like, Oh, it’ll be amazing to end at home, on home soil in Oregon.”
Turns out, a lot of people were right.
On Friday evening in the city of Eugene, when she took the baton from Elija Godwin for the second leg of the mixed 4×400-meter relay, Hayward Field erupted.
In her first 200 meters, she was entirely in a league of her own, as she has been for much of her storied career.
“There was a moment where I was going for the break, and I heard the cheers,” Felix said. “And it was really cool. It was special. Obviously you’re competing, but I felt the love and I felt joy running tonight.”
She slowed in the last few meters, perhaps from exhaustion, perhaps from the realization that her long career, and her goodbye tour, was coming to an end, too. “The first thing I think I felt was lactic acid,” she said of handing off the baton to Vernon Norwood. “But after that, just joy.”
The crowd gave her a standing ovation as she completed the final competitive race.
The U.S. did not win the gold, but no matter. This was Felix’s victory lap. In the moments after the race, opposing athletes approached her for photos, handshakes and fist bumps. She leaves behind an unmatchable legacy, having won yet another world championship medal, her 19th, extending her record for the most medals at the world championships.
And she leaves behind something more, as a mother who rewrote the way in which pregnant athletes and parents are regarded and treated in the sport.
She took it all in on Friday night. The crowds, the echoing cheers, the signs, the medal around her neck, the feeling of seeing her daughter, Camryn, in the stands.
“I think I felt all the emotions. And I’m not that emotional of a person,” she said. “I think there were a couple of moments tonight where I just kind of looked around and made a memory.”
At the end of the evening, with an American flag draped around her back, she looked around the track in Eugene, waved to the crowd and walked into the next stage of her life.
Her daughter, Camryn, was already off getting ice cream. Felix seemed ready to join her.
Scott Cacciola contributed reporting.