Allyson Felix’s Mentor Was an Olympic Legend, Too: “Jackie Has Been by My Side”

Getty / Miika Skaffari and Photo Illustration: Michelle Alfonso

This Black History Month, we wanted to learn about the personal histories of women we admire – so we asked changemakers to tell us about a Black woman in their life who has been crucial in shaping who they are today.

In this installment, Allyson Felix – the most decorated American track and field athlete in history – talks about the way Jackie Joyner-Kersee, who is ranked among the all-time greatest Olympians in the heptathlon and the long jump, has inspired her. Felix retired from athletics after the 2022 season, and she’s made a name for herself as an entrepreneur and as a fierce advocate for maternal health, an issue that disproportionately affects Black pregnant people.

Jackie Joyner-Kersee is my mentor and my friend. Jackie was not only a phenomenal athlete, but she is an incredible person. She was a fierce competitor – determined and driven. In the face of so many obstacles, she has always found a way to show up and deliver. She has a passion for her community and has done a tremendous amount to better it.

I’m grateful that in my darkest moments, I knew that I could turn to her for support.

Specifically, Jackie has always been an athletic inspiration to me in the way she carried herself. She has a sense of grace to everything she does, and I admire that. Jackie has taught me to have patience and always see the bigger picture. She has been an incredible example of how to be a role model. The way she has poured into me – and not only cared about how I perform, but how I am as a person – has meant the world to me. I definitely want to emulate that as I mentor younger athletes.

Jackie has been by my side during all of the high and low moments of my career. I’m grateful that in my darkest moments, I knew that I could turn to her for support.

– As told to Lena Felton

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