TOKYO, Japan — Allyson Felix is one of the most decorated Olympians of all-time, as iconic an American track athlete as there is - and even still, she said she was afraid ahead of one of the last, biggest races of her career.
Not of losing, Felix shared in an Instagram post ahead of the women's 400m final in Tokyo - "of letting people down ... of letting myself down."
Felix captured her 10th medal in Friday's final, setting her apart from every other woman in Olympic track history. She had been tied with Jamaica's Merlene Ottey, who won nine medals across two decades.
She also joined Carl Lewis on the American track pedestal with 10 medals, and can go for sole possession of the record if she runs in the 4x400m relay. Lewis congratulated her Friday, writing: "35 never looked so good. What an amazing career and inspiration. Now on to the relay."
But before the race, with history on the line, Felix - who almost died in childbirth in 2018 - articulated the broader perspective she now has on things.
Felix wrote in her Instagram post that she's "never been afraid of my competitors" and "not afraid of losing."
"That's life and I think that's how it's supposed to be. I've found that I learn more from my losses and that I have gained much more value in the journey toward a goal than achieving that goal," she wrote. "I'll line up, I'll give my best and I will either win or lose and that doesn't scare me."
What is difficult, she wrote, is "realizing as I'm sitting here the night before my final individual Olympic final that in a lot of ways I've let my performances define my worth."
"I've been afraid that my worth is tied to whether or not I win or lose," Felix wrote. "But right now I've decided to leave that fear behind. To understand that I am enough."
The themes Felix touched on in her post have taken center stage during these Tokyo Olympics, after Simone Biles made the decision to protect her mental health and step away from a number of events.
She tweeted after pulling out of women's team gymnastics final that "the outpouring love & support I've received has made me realize I'm more than my accomplishments and gymnastics which I never truly believed before."
Felix echoed that kind of message before she steps onto the track in Tokyo to make history.
"I’m not sharing this note for me. I’m sharing it for any other athletes who are defining themselves by their medal count," Felix wrote. "I’m writing this for any woman who defines her worth based on whether or not she’s married or has kids. I’m writing it for anyone who thinks that the people you look up to on TV are any different than you. I get afraid just like you, but you are so much more than enough. So take off the weight of everyone else’s expectations of you. Know that there is freedom on the other side of your fear. Go out there and be brave with your life because you are worthy of your dreams."