TOKYO — All three American women in the 400 meters moved on to Wednesday's semifinals, led by Allyson Felix.
One of the most-talked-about athletes at these Olympics, at least among those from the United States, Felix took to the track under uncomfortable conditions. Humidity hovered over 70 percent despite a brief rain shower just before the morning session began at 9 a.m. local time; the "feels like" temperature in the stadium was just over 100 degrees.
Felix looked smooth in winning Heat 3 in 50.84 seconds; teammates Wadeline Jonathas and Quanera Hayes finished their respective heats in 50.93 and 51.07.
Felix, who is in her fifth Olympics and since becoming a mother in 2018, has become much more outspoken on a variety of issues, spurred by her own difficult pregnancy and life-saving emergency C-section at 32 weeks, the Black maternal health crisis, the inspiration provided by daughter Camryn, pay inequity, and the challenges of being a mother for elite athletes and non-athletes.
"The meaning and motivation is different this time," Felix said when asked if her goals have changed. "But I don't want to limit myself. I'm still going to go out and give everything I have."
During pre-race introductions, she was called "The Legend," for her longevity and success: Felix's six Olympic gold medals are more than any woman in athletic history.
"It is something that's very special; obviously I love this sport, it's been so much of my life, so knowing that this is my last time around, it means a lot to me," she said.
As she did for the first time at the U.S. Trials, Felix ran in custom spikes made and designed by Saysh, the female-focused footwear company she has started with her brother and manager, Wes.
Saysh came to be in large part because of how Felix and other women were treated by footwear behemoth Nike. The company withheld or reduced pay for athletes it sponsored when they became pregnant, forcing them back into training and competition so they could resume getting paid and supporting their family.
Asked about wearing spikes from a company she owns, Felix gave a subtle signal that she remains glad to be out from under Nike.
"I feel so proud," she said. "I think it's the first time stepping onto the track that I can say that I just ... I feel so proud for what we stand for, for what we're building and for focusing on women who for far too long have been overlooked."
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