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Sprinters Allyson Felix, Shelly‑Ann Fraser‑Pryce Show Athletic Success Doesn’t End With Motherhood

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Oct 1, 2019

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Jamaican sprinter Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce celebrates her win of the 100 meter event. Fraser-Pryce, like U.S. sprinter Allyson Felix, made history at the World Championships by taking gold home as mothers. Image Credit: Karim Jaafar/AFP/GETTY

Allyson Felix’s win as part of the U.S. 4×400 mixed-gender relay team in Doha has made her the athlete with the most gold medals in World Championship (WC) history. Felix, who now has 12 WC gold medals to her name, was previously tied at 11 with runner Usain Bolt.

And Jamaican sprinter Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce took home her fourth WC gold in the 100 meters event, sailing across the finish line with this year’s world-best time of 10.71 seconds.

Oh, and both Felix and Fraser-Pryce happen to be mothers; both women gave birth via C-section — Fraser-Pryce in 2017 and Felix in 2018 — which damages the core muscles critical for sprinting.

“A victory for motherhood!” Fraser-Pryce said, as her 2-year-old son joined her on her victory lap. Felix’s 10-month-old daughter — who spent time in the NICU after being born prematurely in November 2018 due to Felix having severe preeclampsia, a pregnancy complication characterized by extremely high blood pressure that impairs the proper function of her organs — watched her mother’s victory from the stand.

These post-motherhood wins and broken records must taste especially sweet, given that in 2017, Nike did not renew Felix’s seven-year contract, in part due to pay protection for pregnancy. Earlier this year, Felix was one of several athletes who protested Nike’s maternity leave policy, getting the sports conglomerate to change its policy that earlier stopped payment to pregnant athletes. (Felix, however, moved on and recently signed a deal with sports apparel company Athleta that provides full compensation during pregnancy and maternity, whether or not she competes.)


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And when Fraser-Pryce became pregnant, she told the Los Angeles Times, she cried; at the time, people had started saying it was time for her to retire.

“Everyone’s entitled to their opinion,” she told the Los Angeles Times. “I knew how I felt and I knew I wasn’t ready to go. I had something left to do, and I stayed focused on the goal.”

Perhaps what’s even more inspiring than their accomplishments is that the two women, from different countries, are clearly fans of each other, united in the common experience of elite athleticism and motherhood, the social adoration that comes with the former, and the social judgment and discouragement that comes with the latter.

“What she’s done is amazing,” Felix said of Fraser-Pryce to the Los Angeles Times, adding that she got goosebumps as Fraser-Pryce crossed the finish line. “She’s had a hard road, too. She keeps encouraging me. Her first year wasn’t the best, but her second year, she’s better than ever.

“Women are amazing, and she’s leading the way.”

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Written By Liesl Goecker

Liesl Goecker is The Swaddle’s managing editor and has been living and writing in Mumbai since 2010. She is passionate about women’s rights, everyone’s health, and caffeine.

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