Sprinter Allyson Felix has set records and made history in track and field – accomplishments that may seem out of reach to those without six Olympic medals.
But Felix, 30, stresses that if you can dream it, you can do it – and is happily sharing her advice for young, female athletes with PEOPLE.
“When younger girls see me I want them to think that they can do whatever they are passionate about,” Felix tells PEOPLE.
Felix, a California native, has been running since early high school, continuing the sport through college at the University of Southern California. Now, she’s gearing up for her fourth Olympics in Rio next month. (She made her Olympic debut in Athens in 2004, taking home a silver medal in the women’s 200-meter race. Four years later she nabbed another silver in the same event, as well as gold in the 4-by-400-meter relay. In 2012 she finally earned a gold medal in the 200-meter, as well as two more golds for relay events.)
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“I look at myself and I don’t look like a typical sprinter at all. I’m a slender, skinny-legged girl and I go up against some girls who are seriously built and look powerful,” she says. “I don’t think it matters your body type. I think if you’re passionate about something you can go after it and I hope I can be an example for that.”
Overall, Felix says she loves her body and the places it takes her.
“I feel the most beautiful when I’m in my natural skin and competing,” she tells PEOPLE. “I feel strong and powerful and I love to be able to see the beauty in just running. That’s definitely the moment.”