The Olympic track star tells PEOPLE that her legacy involves using her voice and passing down traditions to her daughter

By Vanessa Etienne
June 07, 2021 08:51 AM

As one of the best track and field athletes in the world — with an impressive six Olympic gold medals under her belt — it's clear that Allyson Felix has left her mark on the sport. But she's more than just a sprinter.

The 35-year-old is partnering with Pantene and the organization's Gold Series Collection — products made specifically for natural hair care — for their "What's Your Legacy" campaign. While chatting with PEOPLE, Felix says her legacy is about using her voice and the accomplishments she's made away from the track, like passing down traditions within her family.

"To me, it's really special that they are celebrating that my legacy is not only on the track. For me, growing up, my mom ... she would do my hair and it was these special moments that we had together. So now, raising my daughter and caring for her hair, we have that special time. It's really cool that I get to pass this tradition on to her," she said of her 2-year-old daughter Camryn

"She inspired me to use my voice and make a difference for her and for the world, and I now feel that legacy most when I spend time teaching her how to care for her curls, further rooting our connection and legacy together," Felix continued, noting that she's "proud" that the Pantene products were "made by Black scientists and perfected by Black stylists."

Allyson Felix
Credit: Pantene

Felix gave birth to her daughter in November 2018 after suffering from preeclampsia and undergoing an emergency c-section at only 32 weeks pregnant. The doctors told her she and her daughter would have died had she not been able to deliver that exact day. She says that overcoming her very difficult birth makes moments spent with her daughter mean more than moments on the track — but that doesn't mean she's done yet.

Allyson Felix
Credit: Pantene

Now, ahead of the Summer Olympics, the track star views her daughter as the "driving force" of her motivation, hoping she's able to show Camryn what hard work and overcoming adversity looks like. Felix says it's been a challenging and "humbling" experience to return to the sport after giving birth, doing it all for her daughter.

"I thought it was going to be like a much quicker process, but just being patient and just kind of trusting in the plan," she tells PEOPLE. "Things that used to be really simple and really easy and I never even thought twice about became challenging. I had to build myself back up to, you know, being at this elite level."

She continues, "[My mom] always made me really embody that confidence and really just know my worth — that I shouldn't accept anything less than the best. And I hope to pass that to my daughter."

Allyson Felix
Credit: Pantene

But Camryn isn't the only one who's taking in the wisdom her mother has to offer. Felix is also passing down traditions to other Team USA athletes as she prepares for what she hopes to be her last Olympic cycle. Sydney McLaughlin, the 21-year-old rising track and field star, called Felix her role model, saying it was an honor to train alongside her — and the veteran is gladly helping out the next generation.

"I remember when I was that young girl, even thinking about Jackie Joyner-Kersee in my life. She was someone who was a role model to me ... who actually cared about me and took the time to build a relationship with me," says Felix. "So to hear Syd say that is very special and rewarding, and I hope that I can hold the door open for her as she navigates her way through her own journey."

Allyson Felix
Credit: Pantene

The journey toward the Tokyo Olympics officially begins with the U.S. team trials for track and field from June 18 – 27 in Eugene, Oregon. Felix says she's hoping to "savor every moment" in her final Olympic run. 

She explains that although the experience is nothing new to her, it "never gets easier," noting that she's had to get "creative" over the past year in order to train during the COVID-19 shutdowns, along with getting physically ready after giving birth. 

Not only did Felix spend time training at random places like on the beach or at empty soccer fields in order to prepare for this summer, but she's made her comeback about proving that women can break boundaries despite those who doubt her abilities since becoming a mom.

"I want things to look different for those coming after me and so that means really pushing on certain issues and really standing up for ourselves," she says.  

To learn more about all the Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls, visit Watch the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics this summer on NBC.