TOKYO (AP) – Allyson Felix finished third in the 400 meters on Friday to win her 10th career medal and become the most decorated woman in Olympic track history.
Felix, 35, a mainstay of American athletics, started in the outside lane and edged Jamaica’s Stephanie Ann McPherson to take third place by 0.15 seconds.
Shaunae Miller-Uibo blew up the field, winning in 48.36 seconds to defend her Olympic title in Rio de Janeiro.
Felix’s 10th Olympic medal broke the tie with Jamaican runner Merlene Ottey and matches Carl Lewis, who also won 10 medals and was America’s single most decorated athlete on track.
Felix’s victory comes nearly three years after helping spark a conversation about how women are treated on the track and the sport in general. She cut ties with Nike, which put pay cuts on women’s contracts if they got pregnant. Félix had a daughter in 2018.
She won the race wearing a shoe she designed for a business she started.
This is the first bronze medal in an Olympic career dating back to the Athens Games in 2004. Previously, she had won six gold and three silver medals. She could aim for 11th place if the United States places her in the 4 × 400 relay final, which is set for Saturday night.
While third place might have been a disappointment in the past for Felix – famous are the snapshots of her crying in the recesses of the stadium after a few unlucky defeats in Athens and Beijing – this one was only sweet.
Felix spoke candidly about the struggle to come back from a difficult pregnancy that led to an emergency Caesarean section and put her and her baby’s life at risk.
She spoke of the pressure she felt to come back quickly, even when her body wasn’t responding the way it once did.
She has also overcome one of her biggest hurdles – leaving behind her well-cultivated private image to become the spokesperson for something much bigger.
This week, she spoke about the topic that has filtered through the Tokyo Olympics: the pressure to win.
“When I line up for a race I normally get scared,” she said in a candid social media essay, posted just hours before the race. “I’m not afraid of losing. I lose a lot more than I win. That’s life and I think that’s how it’s supposed to be.
After a semi-final in which she had to run at full speed to qualify for the medal race, she recognized that just getting this far was quite an accomplishment. She’s not as young as she used to be, she joked. We did not say that she could leave without a medal in her last individual Olympic race.
Her semi-final result relegated her to lane 9, the furthest outside – a place where you can’t see any of the runners until you’ve hit the straight. Felix resisted the urge to get out too fast, and when she came through the last corner she was battling for third place with McPherson.
Felix won it, then collapsed to the ground – this time smiling for third place, a result that put her alone in the record books.