Five-time Olympian Allyson Felix, competing Friday in the final individual Olympic race of her remarkable, storied career, came from behind in a triumphant display of power and grit to claim 400m bronze in 49.46 and earn an extraordinary 10th medal at the Games.
The 35-year-old mother matches Carl Lewis for the most Olympic medals all-time among American track and field athletes, and breaks a tie with Jamaican Merlene Ottey, who won three silver and six bronze, for most decorated woman in Olympic track and field history.
Defending Olympic champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo, whose memorable dive at the line in Rio beat Felix for gold, repeated her title in a personal-best 48.36 to give the Bahamas a sweep of both the women’s and men’s 400m after compatriot Steven Gardiner‘s victory Thursday. Marileidy Paulino of the Dominican Republic took bronze in 49.20.
A near lock for a spot on the 4x400m relay team – an event in which she ran the prelims at the most recent world championships in Doha, winning her 13th world title – Felix now has a chance to surpass Lewis in what will surely be one of the most memorable moments of the Games.
Felix became the most decorated U.S. woman in Olympic track and field history at the 2016 Rio Games, winning No. 7 with a silver in the 400m, then her eighth and ninth with golds in the relays — the titles, her fifth and sixth, giving her the most by a woman in Olympic track and field history.
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Since Rio, Felix became a mother, giving birth to daughter Camryn in November 2018 via emergency C-section. She returned to the track in mid-2019 and surpassed Usain Bolt for most career world titles at the world championships. She also became a vocal advocate for issues including contract protections for female athletes and racial disparities in maternal health care.
Miller-Uibo initially decided to prioritize the 200m and forgo a 200m-400m double attempt. Her request to change the Games schedule to accommodate for adequate recovery time between event rounds was denied – a petition Felix was successful in making for Rio.
But the Bahamian left open the option and ultimately entered into both for Tokyo. It’s unclear when a decision was made to compete in both, but in her first two races on Monday, Miller-Uibo finished back in sixth in both the heats and semifinals of the 200m.
With the schedule conflict occurring the next day – the 400m prelims preceding the 200m final – Miller-Uibo not only participated in the former but won her heat in 50.50 for the second-best time of the round. Twelve hours later, she tanked in the 200m final, finishing last in 24.00.
Paulino topped that 400m first round ahead of Miller-Uibo in 50.06. Cuba’s Roxana Gomez was next in 50.76, followed by Felix in 50.84.
In the semifinals, 2013 world bronze medalist Stephenie Ann McPherson, 32, unleashed a quarter-second personal best of 49.34 to advance as to the final as the top seed. Her previous best, a 49.61 run at Jamaica’s trials in June, had been nearly a third of a second better than the best before that, a 49.92 from eight years ago at the 2013 Monaco Diamond League meet.
Behind McPherson, seven other women went sub-50 in the semis; most notably, Paulino in a national-record 49.38 and Felix in a season-best 49.89. For Felix, it was the first time she had dipped under the mark in the open event in four years, when she clocked 49.65 in July 2017 at the London Diamond League meet.