Abu Dhabi: American track and field superstar Allyson Felix is of the view that the perception of the West about this part of the world is very much ‘changing’ for good.
Felix, who has been a regular to the Middle East and always been a part of the IAAF Diamond League in Doha, is currently involved in lot of promotional events in the region and is currently in the capital to promote the 2019 Special Olympics World Games, to be held here.
“I think it is definitely changing, it is just the people who are exposed to the region will know. To me it is definitely fun, I get to meet amazing people, it’s huge and it is a highlight. I think it is changing as people are understand more about the region,” said Felix in an interview with Gulf News on the sidelines of a clinic held for the differently-abled kids at the New York University, Abu Dhabi.
“I still remember the first time I started coming here over 15 years ago. I have seen how things have grown and the steady progress happening around. More women are now involved. Just sport in general has developed so much and hence, I always enjoy coming here,” revealed Felix, who also welcomed the move of allowing women to drive in Saudi Arabia.
“It is excitement when you hear news like that. It is progress, especially for me athletics is where my focus has always been and young women are really important for me. To see that progress happening is always specially,” said the 31-year-old, who appreciated Abu Dhabi and UAE’s role in supporting Special Olympics and it will be a huge boost for athletics in the region if the UAE can also look to host a world meet like in Doha.
“We enjoy coming here and it will be awesome to have a Desert Swing like what you have for golf,” said Felix, who earlier in the year recorded her 11th gold medal in 4x100 meter relay at the London World Championship and is tied overall with Jamaican legend Usain Bolt for the most number of golds in the Worlds. It was also her 16th career world medal overall — a mark that belongs solely to her.
“It is special to have more medals than Bolt (who has 14) at the Worlds. I just want to be a good example and good role model,” said Felix, who is in no mood to hang up her boots anytime soon and has set sights on the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
“Yes, that’s my plan. I would love to end my career with another Olympics Games. It is a big goal of mine and I’m going to go after it. As long as I’m passionate about it and enjoying it, I think it will go well,” said Felix, who is also keen on doing well at the 2019 Worlds in Doha.
“I have just gone back to training recently. It is very gradual at this time of the year, I won’t compete Indoors Worlds (2018 Birmingham) and won’t be competing until April. Slowly I will build myself back up for 2019,” revealed Felix, who wants to be remembered more for her work with the people than for her accolades on the track.
“Along with someone who had a good presence on the track, I want people to remember me more as the one who cared about people. Things like the Special Olympics and getting kids active is what I like. These are things what I’m passionate about and is close to my heart. I like to be remembered for such work.”
Felix hails UAE’s Special Olympics move
Allyson Felix hailed the UAE’s move to join the Special Olympics Movement and said she was happy to be part of it.
“No one knows better than me about the opportunities that sports can offer. By training to compete in track, I learned about the rewards of self-discipline and hard work. I learned how struggle and effort can lead to accomplishment, a sense of belonging, and the joy that comes achieving a goal after years of dedication. I made friends that will last a lifetime, and I’ve seen more of the world than I ever expected as a young girl from Los Angeles.
“Through Special Olympics, people who the world once ignored and neglected can now feel that same sense of achievement through competition. They can feel the happiness that comes from teamwork and training. Their families can share the pride that’s earned on the playing field, on the track and in the pool.
“Special Olympics helps us overcome the fear and prejudice that hold us back from building a more unified and just world. I applaud the people of Abu Dhabi and UAE for hosting the World Games, and making such a deep and profound commitment to greater inclusion. As an Olympian, I know how much effort it takes to organize and support such a huge event.”