Allyson Felix, who graduated from USC, is leaving the Olympics as “most decorated American Olympian in track and field” with 11 medals, surpassing the 10 medals won by Carl Lewis.
Some bandwagoners are also saying she is “USC’s greatest Olympian.”
Here is my problem with that: Felix has won 11 Olympics medals but only one gold medal in an individual event (gold medal, 200 meters, London 2012).
She’s won six gold medals in relays. She’s won three silver medals in individual events. She won a bronze in Tokyo in the 400 meters.
There is nothing wrong with any of that.
But is one individual gold medal in five Olympics better than Parry O’Brien winning the gold medal at the 1952 and 1956 Olympics in the shot put? Or Sammy Lee winning back-to-back Olympic gold medals in platform diving (1948 and 1952)?
Clarence “Bud” Houser was the first Trojan to win double gold medals in individual events at a single Olympics (shot put and discus in 1924). Ous Mellouli won an Olympic gold medal in the 1500-meter freestyle in 2008 and the open water 10K in 2012.
I think winning gold medals in two different Olympics is better than racking up a bunch of relay medals.
In 2019, Felix won her 12th medal at the track and field World Championships and all media reports said she broke Usain Bolt‘s record of 11 medals?
I admire Felix but this comparison bothers me. Felix won 4 gold medals in individual events at the World Championships along with 1 silver and 1 bronze. The other six medals were in relays.
By contrast, Bolt won 7 individual gold medals at the Worlds and 4 in relays.
Maybe Felix should be called the greatest relay runner in history.