Allyson Felix told PEOPLE that her daughter Camryn "changed everything" for her

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Allyson Felix
Allyson Felix
| Credit: Michael Steele/Getty Images

Allyson Felix has changed as an athlete since the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio — thanks, in part, to a new role she's taken on: being a mom.

The 35-year-old athlete welcomed her first child, daughter Camryn, in November 2018. "It's changed everything," she told PEOPLE while speaking to reporters after her qualifying race in the 400m in Tokyo on Tuesday. "It's given me a different drive."

When Camryn was born in 2018, Felix had been suffering from preeclampsia and had to undergo an emergency C-section at only 32 weeks pregnant. Doctors told the track star that she and her daughter would have died had she not been able to deliver that exact day.

Speaking to PEOPLE, Felix said of motherhood, "I've had so many challenges because of it and so I think it's even more meaningful now to be on this stage as a mom."

Felix finished at the top of her heat for the women's 400m with a time of 50.84 seconds. She'll compete in the semifinal on Wednesday at the Tokyo Olympic Stadium. Going into the Games, she already has won more Olympic medals than any other woman in U.S. track and field history.

"It's nice to get going, it feels like I've been waiting forever," the mom of one also told reporters. "It felt good to get out there, and bump it up for the semi."

Felix added of retiring after these Olympics, "Knowing that this is my last time around, it means a lot to me."

Olympic moms
Credit: Steph Chambers/Getty

Ahead of her qualifying event, Felix posted a message about her journey to a fifth Games on Instagram, calling it an "incredible victory" to be in Tokyo. She said, "I've experienced the hardest years of my life in this journey and by God's grace I'm here."

She continued, "With a heart full of gratitude I'm taking space to remember all it took to get here."

"So when you see me on the track I hope you understand my fight," Felix said. "As an athlete who was told I was too old, as a woman who was told to know my place, as a mother who wasn't sure I would live to raise my daughter. I hope you see that for me, it's about so much more than what the clock says."

To learn more about Team USA, visit TeamUSA.org. Watch the Tokyo Olympics now on NBC.