USA s Allyson Felix competes in the women s 400m heats during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo on August 3, 2021. AFP
Allyson Felix made a smooth start to her quest for a record-breaking 10th Olympic medal on Tuesday, strolling to a comfortable win in the opening heats of the 400m.
The 35-year-old queen of US track and field, competing in her fifth Olympic Games, cruised through her heat in 50.84sec, the fourth fastest time of qualifying.
Felix is the only female track and field athlete in history to win six Olympic gold medals and is currently tied with Merlene Ottey on nine medals as the most decorated female Olympian in track and field history.
"It's nice to get going," Felix said after her win. "It feels like I've been waiting forever. It felt good to get out there and bump it up for the semi."
Felix, who plans to retire before the 2024 Olympics, said she was cherishing her final appearance on the Olympic stage, which she first graced as a teenager in Athens in 2004.
"Obviously I love this sport," she said. "It's been so much of my life and I think that's why, knowing this is my last time around it means a lot to me."
Felix, a silver medallist in the 400m in 2016, is racing in her first Olympics as a mother.
She gave birth to daughter Camryn in 2018 after an emergency C-section and has since been a vocal advocate for the rights of working mothers.
"It's changed everything," Felix said of motherhood. "It's given me a different drive. I've had so many challenges because of it. So I think it's even more meaningful now to be on this stage as a mom."
Felix split with her long-time sponsors Nike in 2019 after criticising the sporting apparel giant for seeking to slash her pay after she became pregnant.
She has subsequently launched her own line of footwear and running shoes, which she wore proudly on Tuesday in the Olympic Stadium.
"I feel so proud for what we stand for, and what we're building and for focusing on women who for far too long have been overlooked," she said.
Felix is almost certain to pull clear of Ottey as the most decorated Olympian in her final Games. As well as the 400m, she will most likely race in the 4x400m, an event the US has dominated for decades, and may also feature in the 4x100m relay.
(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)