Allyson Felix Is Embracing a New Role for Her First Olympics Post-Retirement

With increased attention on women’s sports, the track icon is excited to see how that carries over into the Paris Games as she helps spotlight athletes.
Felix has been an icon in women’s sports for two decades, but compared to the beginning of her career in 2004, she knows how much bigger the current hype is.
Felix has been an icon in women’s sports for two decades, but compared to the beginning of her career in 2004, she knows how much bigger the current hype is. / Ben Lonergan/The Register-Guard / USA

Allyson Felix knows that the recent wave of attention on women’s sports has been a long time coming. 

As the most decorated track and field athlete in history with 11 Olympic and 20 World Championship medals to her name, Felix herself has been a force in women's sports throughout her career. Now, she gets to experience the excitement as a spectator since retiring in 2022

After competing in five Olympics since she was 18 years old, having a new role during this summer’s Paris Games is something Felix is looking forward to.

“Just seeing it from a different perspective,” Felix says. “I feel like I've never been able to truly enjoy them because I've been so head down and just doing my thing. And so I'm excited to just support other athletes competing and to take it in.” 

In many ways, the timing of the upcoming Games could not be better for women's sports. Felix has been a leading driver of interest in women’s sports since her start, but compared to the beginning of her Olympic career in 2004, she knows how stark a contrast the current hype is. 

“It's definitely very different,” Felix says. “I love that this is happening right now and I think a lot of us have known that this is a long time coming and we've known how exciting women's sports are, but it's really nice to see some of the rest of the world take notice to what's happening. I hope it just keeps going.” 

Though Felix may be retired from competition, she has not removed herself from increasing the visibility of women’s sports. Most recently, Felix teamed up with Cracker Jack to bring new eyes to impressive female athletes participating in the Summer Olympics.

Felix is guiding a group of five female athletes on the ‘Cracker Jill Spotlight Squad’ who will be competing in Paris, including wheelchair basketball player Lindsey Zurbrugg, water polo player Ashleigh Johnson, para track and field athlete Noelle Lambert, boxer Jennifer Lozano and wrestler Kennedy Blades. Fans will have the opportunity to highlight these athletes on social media for a chance to win a $500 cash prize and a $10,000 donation in their name on behalf of Cracker Jack to an eligible non-profit organization. 

The initiative comes in part following a 2022 study by Cracker Jack that found almost half of U.S. teenagers can't name a female professional athlete and that male teenagers are nearly two times more likely to envision themselves being a professional athlete than females. 

“I think we all realize that women's sports is having a moment right now,” Felix says. “Knowing those statistics, I really wanted to highlight these women and show that we might know some of those really popular names at the top, but there are so many more, and I love this group.”

Among those well-known athletes are gymnast Simone Biles, tennis player Naomi Osaka and Indiana Fever rookie Caitlin Clark, three athletes of different experience levels who are all helping to change the game in their respective sports. Still, with ratings on the rise and arenas selling out, Felix understands the hype is more than just any one player. 

As someone who experienced pressure throughout her career as a record breaker and role model, Felix can relate to what is falling on the shoulders of many young athletes throughout women’s sports.

“I think that for a lot of athletes, we put the pressure on ourselves and of course, there's the outside pressure but you have these huge expectations… I think in the moment sometimes you just want things to happen so quickly that it's hard to see that big picture,” Felix says. 

“But that's why you have mentors and people in your life to really give you that other perspective, and we have this growth, but also it can speak to how much more work there is to do as well in terms of highlighting women's sports and giving it that attention it deserves.”

Even with the increased viewership and ticket sales, Felix understands there is still progress to be made. With this latest initiative, Felix is aiming to help introduce new fans to an array of diverse and dominant female athletes this summer and beyond.

“It's really just the representation,” Felix says. “Growing up, I knew nothing about water polo. It wasn't something I was exposed to, but I'm excited for my daughter to watch [Johnson] and to learn about a new sport that she doesn't have as much access to.

“And so I think more stories like that, whether it is wheelchair basketball or whatever the thing is that you may not be aware of, I hope that these women can show you something new.” 

Elizabeth Swinton