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 career 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.
"I can't even believe it, it's been such a journey. It's just so special. I couldn't have ever asked for more," Felix told NBC's Lewis Johnson after the race.
"I hoped. I prayed. I had been through so much, and so to come here tonight, wearing shoes my brand created after getting so many no's, it's just a special, special feeling."
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.
Miller-Uibo is only the second woman to win multiple Olympic 400m crowns, joining France's Marie-Jose Perec, who claimed consecutive golds at the 1992 Barcelona and 1996 Atlanta Games. It's also just the second occurrence of a single nation sweeping both genders' titles since the U.S. in 1984 with Alonzo Babers and Valerie Brisco-Hooks.
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.
Since Rio, Felix gave 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.
After earning bronze Friday, Felix spoke with her family and Cammy over a video call, and she offered a message to her 32-month-old daughter:
"Tonight, the lesson that I want her to know is that no matter what it feels is stacked against you, you go out with character and integrity, you give your all, and that's all anybody else can ask of you, and you're proud with that," she said. "I hope that, years down the way, that she understands that."
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 to attempt the double was made, but in her first two races Monday, in the 200m, Miller-Uibo finished sixth in her heat and sixth in her semifinal.
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, who also won silver in the mixed 4x400m relay, 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 to the final as the top seed. Her previous best, a 49.61 run at Jamaica's trials in June, was nearly a third of a second better than the 49.92 she had run eight years prior 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.