This morning I am feeling alone, afraid and unsure. I, along with the rest of the world, learned that the Tokyo Olympic Games will be postponed until 2021, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I don’t know how that makes you feel – maybe the Games are a form of entertainment to you, maybe they give you that warm feeling that reminds you our world can come together around something good. Or maybe you’re a fellow Olympian and this news feels like a crushing blow. I’ve woken up every morning for the last 6,055 days, since I was 17 years old, relentlessly pursuing Olympic Gold.
At a time like this, it is hard not to focus on the loss, to not think about what could have been. That is something that can be hard about having audacious dreams. Sometimes, you believe so strongly in that dream that you begin to think that you have already earned it, that it is already yours. Until it is taken away from you. This has been a sobering reminder that we are not owed our dreams, those dreams do not come free and you do not accomplish them alone.
The last two years in my career have been the hardest, by far. They’ve required much sacrifice. My young family and I moved from Michigan to California for training. My husband gave up his job to be able to support my Olympic dream. My coach, Bob Kersee, has committed to commuting over two hours each day so that we can train closer to my home and 1-year-old daughter. I have so much help in the form of my team of trainers, doctors, agents and managers who all pour themselves into my dream. The sacrifices are real and I think that’s where a lot of the disappointment comes from.
You might be sitting there reading this; alone, afraid and unsure because you’ve spent your entire adult life showing up to work everyday and in the blink of an eye all that you’ve been dreaming about, all that you’ve “earned” is seemingly taken away with six words, “We have to let you go.” You might be a business owner who against all of the odds had a unique idea and took the risk and bought that food truck – chasing those audacious dreams – and now you’re sitting alone, afraid and unsure about how your business will stay open. You might be celebrating welcoming a beautiful new life into this world, but are feeling so alone, afraid and unsure because you have no idea what the world is going to look like six months from now. There is so much loss happening all around us and it’s hard not to focus only on the negative. We need to grieve our losses and collectively grieve the losses of others, but we have to hold onto hope.
Those 6,055 days ago, I was at my first outdoor world championship in Paris, France. I took 6th place in the quarter-finals and I’ll never forget the headline in the newspaper Felix Flops in Pro Debut. I was devastated and never wanted to feel that feeling again, but then the news came that the woman who won the 200m final, Kelli White, tested positive for use of a performance enhancing drug. I knew at that point that sports aren’t simply entertainment. I knew that I wanted to one day stand on top of that podium – the right way – with my head high, my heart full, my conscience clear and my hand covering my heart out of respect for the country I have the privilege of representing. I’m asked a lot what makes me want to continue on. It’s not gold medals or world records. I’ve woken up each and every morning for the past 6,055 days wanting to send a message of hope. Hope that you can accomplish your dreams, hope that you can make it through your deepest disappointment, hope that you can do things with integrity, hope that you can overcome — no matter what you are faced with.
Today is no different. Today, I’m 34 years old, and I am standing here with a message of hope. Right now things are uncertain, we are facing tremendous challenges and loss of an unthinkable proportion. But as a global community we have to commit to waking up tomorrow morning and finding a new way to relentlessly pursue our audacious dreams. I’m thankful to the International Olympic Committee, the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee, and USA Track & Field for leading our sport and the Olympic movement during this time. While the news of postponement is disappointing, you have without a doubt made the right decision for us and for the world.
I am not sure what the future holds, but my goals have not changed. I still hope to experience the feeling of standing on that podium in 2021 and I hope my journey to try to get back there will inspire you to keep moving forward. Stay safe, stay inside, wash your hands, lead with love, check on each other and be kind. We will get through this, together.
Allyson Felix owns six Olympic gold medals, the most ever for a female track and field athlete. She’s the most decorated track athlete, ever, at the World Championships: she owns 18 career medals.