Allyson Felix took inspiration from Serena Williams when launching her record-breaking return to track after becoming a mother.
The 33-year-old sprinter's gold medal at the 2019 World Championships earlier this month was her 12th, which broke her tie with Usain Bolt and made her the athlete with the most gold medals in history at the World Championships. The fact that she did so less than a year after giving birth to her first child -- a daughter, Camryn -- two months early via emergency C-section made her accomplishment that much sweeter.
"For me, this was a more important moment because of all it represented," she told AOL's Gibson Johns at personal finance company SoFi's "Get That Raise" event. "For me, it was about women and overcoming adversity and a really tough year of not feeling supported. All of those things made it more meaningful than just, ‘Oh, I’m getting attention.’ It was actually for something."
Felix's victorious return to competition comes on the heels of Williams' return to tennis after welcoming her first child, daughter Alexis Olympia. While the all-time great player is still chasing her elusive 24th major title, she has managed to make four grand slam finals since giving birth (the complications around which she's used to raise awareness for the risks that women of color experience during childbirth).
Her determination served as an inspiration for Felix.
"She was an inspiration to me to train through my pregnancy and to have confidence in my ability to come back. Even when she went through her complications and I went through mine, it just really made me understand how big of an issue this is for black women and women of color," Felix explained. "It made me really just want to get the word out there and raise awareness for what’s happening, because Serena is a very privileged person and I am as well, and if we are facing these complications, then you can only imagine what others are going through."
Allyson Felix through the years
Allyson Felix through the years
Silver medallist USA's Allyson Felix poses on the podium for the Women's 400 meter during the athletics at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on August 16, 2016. / AFP / Fabrice COFFRINI (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
4/10/2002 Â Sprinter Allyson Felix of L.A. Baptist High works out in preperation for the Arcadia Invitational track and field meet. Felix, a junior, won the 100 and placed second in the 200 in the state championships last year. (Photo by George Wilhelm/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
Allyson Felix, a senior track star at Los Angeles Baptist High School, recently broke the 19 and under world record and national high school record in the 200 meter with a time of 22.11 seconds, breaking the mark previously held by Marion Jones. Felix will attend the University of Southern California in the fall. Felix was photographed at her high school track in North Hills, CA. (Photo by Dan MacMedan/Getty Images)
Allyson Felix of the US prepares to leave the starting block in heat three of the women's 200m quarter-final 26 August 2003 during the 9th IAAF World Athletics Championships at the Stade de France in Saint Denis, outside Paris. AFP PHOTO FRANCK FIFE (Photo credit should read FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images)
USA's Allyson Felix sprints to the lead rounding the turn for the stretch running a preliminary heat in the 200m at the 2004 Athens Olympics in Greece Monday. (Photo by Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
ATHENS, Greece: Silver medalist Allyson Felix of the USA celebrates on the podium of the women's 200m event at the Olympic Stadium 26 August 2004 during the Olympic Games athletics competitions in Athens. Veronica Campbell of Jamaica won the Olympic Games women's 200 metres gold medal , Allyson Felix of the United States won silver and Debbie Ferguson of the Bahamas took the bronze. AFP PHOTO TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA (Photo credit should read TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA/AFP/Getty Images)
HELSINKI, Finland: US Allyson Felix is pictured during the women's 200m qualification round at the 10th IAAF World Athletics Championships in Helsinki 10 August 2005. AFP PHOTO JEFF HAYNES (Photo credit should read JEFF HAYNES/AFP/Getty Images)
HELSINKI, Finland: US gold medalist Felix Allyson celebrates after the women's 200m final at the 10th IAAF World Athletics Championships in Helsinki 12 August 2005. AFP PHOTO FRANCOIS-XAVIER MARIT (Photo credit should read FRANCOIS-XAVIER MARIT/AFP/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS - JUNE 24: Allyson Felix (R) and Sanya Richards compete in the finals for the women's 200 meter dash during day four of the AT&T USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships at IU Michael A. Carroll Track & Soccer Stadium on June 24, 2007 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Allyson Felix won the women's 200 meter dash with the time of 22.34 seconds. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 21: Allyson Felix poses for a photo at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on April 21, 2008 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by: Harry How/Getty Images)
EUGENE, OR - JULY 04: Allyson Felix competes in the women's 200 meter heats during day six of the U.S. Track and Field Olympic Trials at Hayward Field on July 4, 2008 in Eugene, Oregon. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
EUGENE, OR - JULY 06: Allyson Felix smiles after winning the gold medal in the women's 200 meter finals during day eight of the U.S. Track and Field Olympic Trials at Hayward Field on July 6, 2008 in Eugene, Oregon. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
US athlete Allyson Felix runs during the women's 4x400m relay final at the National stadium as part of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games on August 23, 2008. The United States won the Olympic women's 4x400-meter relay title Saturday in a time of 3mins 18.54secs. AFP PHOTO / GABRIEL BOUYS (Photo credit should read GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - OCTOBER 4: Former USC Trojan Allyson Felix looks into the stands after a halftime ceremony honoring USC athletes who competed in the Olympics at the game against the Oregon Ducks on October 4, 2008 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, California. USC won 44-10. (Photo by Jeff Golden/Getty Images)
BERLIN - AUGUST 21: Allyson Felix of United States crosses the line to win the gold medal in the women's 200 Metres Final during day seven of the 12th IAAF World Athletics Championships at the Olympic Stadium on August 21, 2009 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
THESSALONIKI, GREECE - SEPTEMBER 12: Allyson Felix of USA signs autographs after victory in the women's 200m during day one of the IAAF World Athletics Final at the Kaftanzoglio Stadium on September 12, 2009 in Thessaloniki, Greece. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
DES MOINES, IA - JUNE 25: Allyson Felix is pictured after winning the Womens 100 Meter during the 2010 USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships at Drake Stadium on June 25, 2010 in Des Moines, Iowa. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Allyson Felix of US celebrates winning the women's 200m event during the Great City Games in Manchester, north-west England on May 15, 2011. AFP PHOTO/ANDREW YATES. (Photo credit should read ANDREW YATES/AFP/Getty Images)
DAEGU, SOUTH KOREA - AUGUST 29: Allyson Felix of United States recovers after competing in the women's 400 metres final during day three of the 13th IAAF World Athletics Championships at the Daegu Stadium on August 29, 2011 in Daegu, South Korea. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
SCANDAL - Olympic Gold Medalist Allyson Felix visited with the cast of ABC's 'Scandal,' on Thursday, August 17, 2012. (Photo by Danny Feld / ABC via Getty Images)
ALLYSON FELIX, GUILLERMO DIAZ
US sprinter Allyson Felix jumps out of the starting blocks during a training session at Alexander Stadium, the US Olympic athletics team training camp, in Birmingham on July 23, 2012 four days before the official start of the London 2012 Olympic Games. AFP PHOTO / ADRIAN DENNIS (Photo credit should read ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/GettyImages)
US' gold medalist Allyson Felix celebrates after winning the women's 200m final at the athletics event of the London 2012 Olympic Games on August 8, 2012 in London. AFP PHOTO / OLIVIER MORIN (Photo credit should read OLIVIER MORIN/AFP/GettyImages)
LONDON, ENGLAND AUGUST 8, 2012ÂUSA's Allyson Felix carries the American flag after winning the 200 meters at the 2012 London Olympics on Wednesday. (Photo by Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
US' gold medalist Allyson Felix poses on the podium of the women's 200m at the athletics event of the London 2012 Olympic Games on August 9, 2012 in London. AFP PHOTO / JOHANNES EISELE (Photo credit should read JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/GettyImages)
LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 15: Allyson Felix arrives at the 2012 Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on September 15, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jeffrey Mayer/WireImage)
BEIJING, CHINA - MAY 21: Allyson Felix of United States celebrates after she won the Women's 200 Metres at National Stadium, also known as Bird's Nest, during 2013 IAAF World Challenge Beijing on May 21, 2013 in Beijing, China. Beijing won the bid to host the 2015 IAAF World Championships in Athletics in 2010, and accordingly it will organize the world challenge games in 2013 and 2014 respectively. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)
US Allyson Felix competes during the women's 200 metres event at the 2013 IAAF World Championships at the Luzhniki stadium in Moscow on August 15, 2013. AFP PHOTO / FRANCK FIFE (Photo credit should read FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images)
BEIJING, CHINA - AUGUST 27: Allyson Felix of the United States celebrates after winning gold in the Women's 400 metres Final during day six of the 15th IAAF World Athletics Championships Beijing 2015 at Beijing National Stadium on August 27, 2015 in Beijing, China. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
BEIJING, CHINA - AUGUST 27: (CHINA OUT) Allyson Felix of the United States celebrates after winning gold in the Women's 400 metres Final during day six of the 15th IAAF World Athletics Championships Beijing 2015 at Beijing National Stadium on August 27, 2015 in Beijing, China. (Photo by VCG/VCG via Getty Images)
EUGENE, OR - JULY 03: Allyson Felix looks on after placing first in the Women's 400 Meters Final during the 2016 U.S. Olympic Track & Field Team Trials at Hayward Field on July 3, 2016 in Eugene, Oregon.(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
USA's Allyson Felix smiles after competing in the Women's 400m Round 1 during the athletics event at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on August 13, 2016. / AFP / OLIVIER MORIN (Photo credit should read OLIVIER MORIN/AFP/Getty Images)
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"It’s really neat to see, and she’s just amazing," she added. "She continues to inspire me."
Another source of inspiration has been another new mother and one of Felix's longtime rivals on the track, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce. The accomplished Jamaican track star became the fastest woman in the world yet again when she won gold in the 100-meter race at the World Championships -- two years after giving birth to her son, Zyon.
"It’s been interesting, because we’ve been competitors for so long. It’s just life that changes you at some point and both of us becoming mothers really brought us together," Felix said of embracing motherhood alongside one another. "Whereas before, not that it wasn’t a friendly competition, but we wouldn’t really mix too much, but now we have something that brings us together, that we share in common and that gives us something to talk about."
"We’ve really been encouraging each other, and she’s been a great source of help along the way to bounce things off of and vice versa. It’s something that I never really imagined in a competitor, but it’s really cool," she went on. "To be able to support other women, at least in my sport, I didn’t feel that when I first came in. I wanted to change that culture. Let’s celebrate one another, and let's encourage one another!"
The six-time Olympic gold medal winner using her global platform to encourage women supporting one another and to raise awareness around racial inequalities in healthcare for new mothers is something that she's begun to embrace more and more as she's advanced in her career, and it's made her career that much more rewarding.
"When I was younger, I felt like I had to be consumed in just the sport. Everything had to be surrounding the question of, ‘How do I win?’ I’m an athlete, and that’s what I do," Felix told AOL. "But as I’ve gotten older and I’ve grown, I understand more about platform and what you can do with that. Now I’m able to tackle some issues that will have much more meaning than running on the track."
Another one of those things is financial awareness and maternity protection, which she first spoke out about in a historic op-ed for the New York Times in which she detailed how her pregnancy affected her contract negotiations with longtime sponsor Nike. Felix, who is now the face of Athleta, further opened up about her learnings at SoFi's "Get That Raise" event in New York City last week.
"I want to share the negotiating tips that I learned along the way. I’ve been in this business for a long time now, so I have a lot of insights," she said ahead of the event. "My first deal happened when I was 17 years old, so now to be here at 33, the biggest thing is knowing my value and knowing my worth and understanding what that is, what that looks like to a brand and how and when to hold tight for something and when it may not be coming. That’s the biggest thing."