Allison Felix returns to the finish line in the 4×400 relay

Allison Felix content with retirement.

days after winning his record 19th medal at the World Championships in Athletics, she was in Los Angeles, indulging in what she called a cheat meal: hot wings and root beer at the Hot Wings Cafe.

She had reason to rejoice. For two decades, she has been one of the consummate athletes. Her 11 Olympic medals making her the most decorated U.S. track and field athlete in history. With her bronze as part of the 4x400m medley relay team on July 15 came the record she achieved by winning medals at eight world championships in 17 years, another record.

It was the right place to say goodbye to the athlete who always wanted to compete in the world championship in the United States, and after that she spoke about being a fighter, verbally ending her career.

Then, a few days after his retirement, the legendary sprint coach Bobby Kersey phoned to interrupt a meal of Felix’s favorite wings. Will she be able to compete in Saturday’s preliminary competition as part of the 4×400 team?

“Of course I was ready,” she said, adding, “I didn’t plan on coming back here for the rest of the meeting – but stuff happens.”

She got on a plane and put off her retirement to become a “team player”, she said. She also puts herself in the position to add to her record catch if the US, which posted the fastest qualifying time of 3 minutes 23.38 seconds, medals as expected. Felix was only asked to run in the qualifying round, not the Sunday final, and if her 50.61 second return leg was indeed her last race, then she exited the race in a career-appropriate manner known for her speed and stamina.

Of the 31 women who raced in the US (the Netherlands were disqualified after three rounds), only two were faster than 36-year-old Felix.

“Get back to your routine,” she said. “Bobby gave me a couple of workouts at home and you immediately went back to them. It’s only been a few days.”

Leading runner Talita Diggs said that Felix’s return “wasn’t too much of a shock, but since she’s retired and for her to come back, I thought, oh, this is going to be cool.”

Allison Felix takes the baton from Team USA colleague Talita Diggs during the women's 4x400m relay.

Allison Felix takes the baton from Team USA colleague Talita Diggs during the women’s 4x400m relay. Felix’s result of 50.61 seconds was the best for the Americans.

(David J. Phillip/Associated Press)

“Getting her one last relay exchange,” Diggs said, “is just amazing.”

Immediately after the finish, Felix was well ahead, trailing Cailin Whitney by more than a second ahead of the next fastest team from Great Britain.

“It’s kind of a vicious circle, literally, just in short sprints and idolizing her,” Whitney said. “Going to this event was just amazing. Being able to work alongside her as well as other great ladies is a privilege.”

If Felix’s return drew a roar of applause as soon as she touched the baton, then Twanisha Terry’s finish move ahead of Jamaica to take first place in the 4x100m relay caused a roar at Hayward Field. Jamaica has won three of the previous four world titles and boasts three of the fastest 100m runners in the world. Shelly-Ann Fraser-PryceElaine Thompson-Hera and television presenter Sherika Jackson.

Jackson cleared the final 100 in a brilliant 9.66 seconds, but Terry’s own stage won the Duel of Nations in 9.88 because she had enough lead from Jenna Prandini’s third stage. Prandini, who raced around the corner at the stadium where she became Oregon’s favorite student star, never let Fraser-Pryce, the 100-meter champion, leave.

“You could have the four fastest women,” Terry said, “but if you don’t have the chemistry and the relay to move through the trade zones, then what do you do?”

The victory created a tense atmosphere for the men’s relay, with the spectators silenced before the start over the speakerphone. In a race that has long annoyed the US, lead runner Christian Coleman overtook Noah Lyles in lane three, narrowly avoiding a hit. The Liles-to-Elijah Hall trade went off without a hitch, only for Hall to fall onto the lane, passing the baton to Marvin Bracey, their pass barely getting inside the legal zone.

With this hesitation Andre De Grasse had all the necessary space. When the former USC star completed the final stage for Canada in 8.79 seconds, he raised his hands for gold in 37.48 seconds, seven hundred ahead of the US.

De Grasse withdrew from the 200m a few days earlier while recovering from a bout of COVID-19. But he was relay-ready, which meant that three of Team Canada’s four events had been in relays together since 2015, and all four had returned from last year’s tournament in Tokyo with silver medals.

The US struggles to create such a sequence because of its large, ever-changing pool of elite sprinters – a plug-and-play selection process that has produced mixed results. Notably, the same four Americans who set the fastest qualifying times and claimed strong confidence during the preparatory “relay camp” were also selected to compete in the final.

“It was great to ruin their party,” de Grasse said.

It wasn’t the US disasters of 2001, 2005, 2009, 2011 and 2015 where they failed to win medals at all. And it added another medal to the US men’s sprint resurgence – their eighth of those 100, 200, 400 and 4×400 relay championships.

But also not the gold-plated capper they so passionately wanted, and the unsuccessful defense of their 2019 World Championship gold resurrected the US reputation in this tournament.

“At the end of the day, we still have the medal, so chalk it up to that,” Bracey said. “We could go out [of] here with nothing but we have to tune in and we have a lot of work to do to keep getting better and winning. When you sweep [100 and 200] you expect to get out here and work better. So it’s sad.”

With one day left of these championships, Felix will be watching Sunday’s long relay final in Eugene before returning to Los Angeles. The advocacy that defined the last years of her career, when she spoke about how shoe sponsors slashed the pay of athletes during pregnancy and pushed for greater representation of mothers, will become her permanent role.

She said she would finish eating those hot wings now.

Was this really her last run?

“As far as I know,” Felix said. “But what do I know?