OLYMPIC GAMES

Allyson Felix goes for gold in the Tokyo Olympics after surviving traumatic birth

Allyson Felix and her daughter survived an emergency C-section in 2018. Felix went on to lead change for the next generation of female athletes.

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Allyson Felix
LUCY NICHOLSON REUTERS

Allyson Felix is one of the most decorated Olympians in the world. However, the 6-time gold medalist and 3-time silver medalist has had a difficult road to the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.

In 2018, Felix survived a difficult pregnancy that resulted in an emergency C-section. Not long after, she became the center of a maternity protection debate with Nike.

Many women struggle with how pregnancy will affect one’s career, but the pressure was especially high for Felix, an athlete that depends on her body to push her career forward.

At 32 weeks pregnant, Felix was diagnosed with preeclampsia, which affects the blood going to the placenta and can be life threatening for both the baby and the mother.

Thanks to Felix’s strength and a great medical team, Camryn was born safely on November 28th, 2018 and her daughter was placed in the neonatal intensive care unit.

However, Felix has spoken out about how many women, and black women in particular, do not have that same experience.

Felix said, “my eyes were completely opened to the fact that no one is immune from this reality and that Black women face significantly higher risks — ones I wasn’t really aware of and looking for.”

According to research, black women are less likely to survive pregnancy in the United States, oftentimes due to being dismissed by medical professionals. Tennis star Serena Williams said that she could have died in 2018 during childbirth after realizing she had a blood clot in her lungs. Williams said to Vogue that the doctor told her she may have been confused from her pain medicine, but convinced them to look into it.

What happened with Nike and Allyson Felix?

Felix and her daughter survived the health scare and not long after, the new mother found herself negotiating her contract with Nike. In an article she wrote for the New York Times, Felix said that Nike would pay her 70% less after giving birth to her child. The company did not guarantee protection for pregnant athletes and new mothers.

Nike eventually changed its policies after public uproar, saying they are committed to changing their maternity policy.

Athleta sponsors Allyson Felix

Much like Simone Biles, Allyson Felix has partnered with Althleta. Together with the brand and with the Women’s Sports Foundation, they have created a fund for new mothers in need of financial resources. The Power of She Fund: Child Care Grants will cover costs for mothers and their children when they travel for competitions and sporting events.

In a release Felix said, “It was important to me and to Athleta that our partnership reflects that I am more than just an athlete. In fact, part of my contract includes provisions for my daughter, Camryn, to join me whenever I am competing,"

Allyson Felix is one of the most decorated athletes in the world, and she could very well add another medal to her accolades at the Tokyo Olympics. She has overcome a lot this year, not only making history as an athlete, but also as a change-maker for mothers around the world. She has set a new precedent for brands, encouraging them to provide fair maternity protection for female athletes.