Allyson Felix discusses her legacy at USC
When Trojans step foot onto the newly renamed Allyson Felix Field, they’ll be entering the legacy of the most decorated U.S. track Olympian. The alum has led a life of advocacy work in women’s rights, maternity rights and issues facing athletes of color.
Felix graduated from USC in 2008, however, she did not race for the University.
Previously named after former track coach and self-professed anti-Semitic Dean Cromwell, Allyson Felix Field sits at the center of the Katherine B. Loker Stadium on campus. The track is the central hub for both the men and women’s track and field teams, as well as the Trojan Marching Band.
The Daily Trojan and Annenberg Media sat down for an interview with Allyson Felix Monday as she reflected on her retirement from running and looked ahead to the future.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Daily Trojan: How has your time at USC influenced your approach to your athletic career and advocacy work?
Allyson Felix: It gave me a really great foundation. I constantly come back to some of the things I learned at SC. The atmosphere of other students, and what they were pursuing, and just an environment where people are chasing after greatness — for me, that really pushed me to go beyond the limits, and to really think things through.
Annenberg Media: You have done so much advocacy for female athletes, athletes of color, mothers, working mothers. How do you hope to inspire USC’s female athletes of color, who you’ve pretty much advocated for your whole career?
AF: I hope they’re inspired to think outside of the box, and not accept things just for the way they are, but instead think through them. I hope that generation experiences things differently. I hope that they don’t have to really think twice about things.
Obviously, student athletes are at school to get a great education and also fulfill their potential in sports. But I think what we’re seeing for athletes right now is that we’re interested in what they have to say, and what they think on other things, as well. And so I hope they feel empowered, that their opinions matter on a vast array of things and that they can weigh in, and also understand the weight of their platform especially as they continue to grow and graduate.
DT: It can be very challenging to fight for advocacy in the face of societal pressure. How do you push on in the face of those challenges?
AF: I spent several very dark years pushing for this, pushing when the tension wasn’t on it. It’s always been what I believe in. If I deeply believe in something, then, personally, I have to commit to it and I think I just keep moving in that way. I do what I feel is right and I want to use my platform on the behalf of others.
AM: How does it feel to be a part of the process of renaming University buildings that previously honored some controversial figures?
AF: Sometimes, it’s really difficult to deal with the past, but it gives me a lot of hope that there are a lot of change-makers on the USC campus. And I think the future is just so bright, and so I’m obviously very happy that all of the renaming is happening, and that we’re being thoughtful with how that process goes, so that history doesn’t repeat itself.
DT: As you adjust to post-competition life, are there any struggles or challenges you’ve encountered?
AF: In a sense, I think I’ve been going through a grieving process, or just a loss of something I have loved for so long, and that I’ve done for the past 20 years. Although I feel super fulfilled and have so much purpose in running my company and advocating for women and all those things, change is hard. I’m excited for the future, but also just working through the realities of what transition is.