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Olympic Gold Medalist Allyson Felix: “Being a great leader includes having confidence, being able to include everyone, being able to help individuals who are under you, being able to bring people together and have a sense of camaraderie, and finally, being a good role model”

By Adam Mendler

The greatest leader that I was around is former President, Barrack Obama. I was on his fitness, sports and nutrition team for eight years. I’m on that committee and it was just amazing to watch him work, bring people together and also accomplish so much…Just on a personal level, on the committee that we were on, he gave us the feeling of being important, being heard. He gave us the feeling that the work was so meaningful. He had the ability to do that with each person that he came in touch with. He would be around millions and millions of people but to be able to walk away and still feel that way, I think that’s really important.

At the 17th Annual Gatorade Athlete of the Year Awards, I had the distinct pleasure of speaking to Allyson Michelle Felix. Allyson is an American track and field sprinter. Allyson is the only female track and field athlete to ever win six Olympic gold medals and is tied with Merlene Ottey as the most decorated female Olympian in track and field history, with a total of nine Olympic medals. Allyson is also the most decorated athlete in IAAF World Championships history with 16 career medals. In 2013, she broke the world best for the rarely contested 150 meters distance, running 16.36 secs. In the 4 × 400 metres relay at the 2015 World Championships, she ran the fastest split ever recorded by an American woman.

Below is an excerpt from part of our conversation.

Adam Mendler: I’m here with Allyson Felix. Allison is one of the greatest athletes of our time. It is a pleasure to meet you.

Allyson: Oh my pleasure. Nice to meet you.

Adam: Allison, first and foremost, please talk a little about your experience in USC. What did your experience mean to you? How did it shape you to become the leader you are today?

Allyson: Well I had the best time in the world. It definitely prepared me. I think it gave me a lot of tools that I’ve used throughout my entire career and I just have such fond memories of being on the campus, life long friends. I just had a good time.

Adam: Are you involved in USC now? Do make your way back to campus?

Allyson: I do make it back. Yeah. I make it back. You know, I’ve had to support the team, talk to them whenever I got the chance. I’ve been back quite a bit.

Adam: That’s great. Well, thank you for your continued involvement. What are you up to now? What is your main focus?

Allyson: So, I am getting ready for our national championships. We have world championships this year. I had a baby not too long ago and so…

Adam: Congratulations.

Allyson: Thank You. So, I am just, yeah, excited to get back out in a couple of weeks.

Adam: Can you talk a little bit about your experience in the Olympics? What was involved in getting to that point and what was it like to win, to break records, to make it in the top? Can you talk about the level of preparation and some of the emotions that comes with the entire experience?

Allyson:Yeah, it’s a long journey getting there, staying there and winning. Olympics sports are unique because every four years, you get this amazing opportunity and if something goes wrong you have pick up the pieces and have to work to get back. But I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

I’ve learned so much from competing at that level. It’s just a sense of pride to be able to represent my country on that stage, and to do what I absolutely love and try to get better year and year out.

Adam: Allison, a lot of my writing and speaking focuses on leadership. I’ll ask you a couple of questions about leadership. What do you think makes great leader?

Allyson: I think, it’s combination of different skills. But it includes having confidence, being able to include everyone, being able to help individuals who are under you, being able to bring people together and have a sense of camaraderie , and finally, being a good role model.

Adam: Who are some of the greatest leaders that you’ve been around?

Allyson: The greatest leader that I was around is former President, Barrack Obama. I was on his fitness, sports and nutrition team for eight years. I’m on that committee and it was just amazing to watch him work, bring people together and also accomplish so much.

Adam: Can you talk a little bit more about President Obama’s leadership style? Specifically, what was it about President Obama that you learned and admired? What did you take from him and apply to your life.

Allyson: Well, just on a personal level, on the committee that we were on, he gave us the feeling of being important, being heard. He gave us the feeling that the work was so meaningful. He had the ability to do that with each person that he came in touch with. He would be around millions and millions of people but to be able to walk away and still feel that way, I think that’s really important.

Adam: What advice do you have for people on how they can become better leaders of their own life?

Allyson: That’s a great question. I would say definitely learning from your experiences. I think we all have important experiences at different points. You have to be able to take something away from that, better yourself, and apply what you’ve learned.

Adam: What tips do you have for everyone out there about how to be happy, how to be successful? This is my last question. Just give me anything you have.

Allyson: I think go for it. You know, I think a lot of times we think we have to be this or that before we launch this venture and have everything in perfect order. But I think sometimes we have to really push ourselves, get out of our comfort zone, go after the gold.

Adam: Thank you very much. It was a pleasure.

Allison: It was nice talking to you.

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