Sprinter Allyson Felix is a three-time Olympian, four-time Olympic gold medalist and world record-holder in the 4x100-meter relay. You've seen her. You know her. Today she turns 30. But no one understands her better than Wes Felix, her older brother, only sibling, former track star and Allyson's full-time agent since 2009.
We asked Wes to shed light on the real Allyson -- a name that, by the way, her family almost never uses.
1. She eats powered doughnuts in bed.
We play this little game called: Who's the professional athlete here? If people were looking at the two of us, they would pick me. I've got my broccoli and all this amazing healthy stuff because I don't run four hours a day. So if I want to stay somewhat in shape, it's going to come from very disciplined eating. She, on the other hand, takes powdered sugar doughnuts in bed with her.
To sleep with doughnuts in your bed?! That's special.
And not sugar donuts, powdered sugared donuts. Those white Hostess, $1.99 -- there may not even be any real bread in them. She just loves them. I asked her, 'How did Mario -- the guy that washes her car -- know to bring these doughnuts over to you?' And she goes, 'He sees the packages everywhere, so he figured it must be one of my favorite things.'
That's probably not what you're expecting of an Olympic champion who weighs 120 pounds and has no body fat.
She went on The Tonight Show and mentioned Ben & Jerry's 'Oatmeal Cookie Crunch.' Of course, my phone starts ringing the next day. It's Ben and Jerry's like, 'This is amazing. We want to send her ice cream. Would she like to come up to the factory and tour the plant in Vermont?' She wasn't able to do it because of scheduling, but of all the fun opportunities after the London Olympics, that was the one that lit up her eyes the most -- apart from helping children and stuff like that.
2. No one calls her Allyson.
Everyone close to her calls her 'Shug,' like sugar without the 'ur.'
After she was born, my dad felt we looked exactly the same, so he called her 'Wes in a Dress' for a while. Then my uncle was saying, 'She's sweet as sugar. We need to call her 'Shuggah Puggah.' My dad was like: That's never gonna fly. Then it gets shortened, between my mom and dad, landing on 'Shug.' Today, she's still 'Shug,' and my parents don't care if they're sitting on the couch talking to NBC, that's what they call her. Even in the stands at the Olympics and world championships, that's what they're screaming out.
3. She has Ike Turner's autograph.
Allyson collected autographs as a kid. The first memorable one, I think, was Marion Jones when she was maybe 12 or 13.
Another was Ike Turner. We were at a Creole restaurant called Harold & Belle's in L.A. It's a special-occasion kind of place for our family. We hear our parents rumbling, 'I think that's so-and-so.' We got really excited. Someone famous! Allyson and I were children; we have no idea who Ike Turner is. We're kind of looking over. And I'm sure he was in an image-repair phase. So he actually leaves the restaurant, gets some autographed headshots, comes back, and tries to pawn the headshots off on us. Like: He's Ike Turner, we must love him.
Allyson and I still laugh about it -- the moment Ike force[d] us to take his signed headshots. I don't know where they are now. They never made it onto the wall. But that would probably be one of her first autographs.
And Marion Jones would be the first one where she really went and got it. She looked up to her.
4. She's a master sleeper.
She can sleep whenever, wherever, however. On a flight, she won't even recline the chair. She cannot stay awake in the car. It's not that she's so tired. It's a choice. I'm bored right now, I'll sleep. I don't have anything else to do right now. I'll sleep.
Her neck doesn't even snap back when she's nodding off. She's such a pro. She puts a hood over her head, and the rest is history. You'll see her in eight hours. It's unreal.
5. She's a gymnastics nut.
She talks about basketball being her first love but really, it was gymnastics. She was hyper-competitive, so -- before the internet -- she's scouring the phone book trying to find where to buy a balance beam to put in the yard so she could be a better gymnast. At the time, she's just in a tumble class for like 30 minutes on a Thursday.
But the balance beam never materialized. She didn't have the budget at 8 years old. Worse than that, she was almost her full height in third, fourth grade -- too tall to be a gymnast. She didn't know the real gymnastics world, but she did know Dominique Dawes. She was just obsessed with Dominique and looked up to her so much.
The love's still there, too. In 2010, when she was asked to join President Obama's Council on Fitness, Sports, & Nutrition, she called me. She was like, 'Dominique Dawes is on the Council! This is going to be so great!'
6. I'm a faster sprinter.
Allyson has never beaten me on the track. People don't always understand the difference between male and female sprinters. There's a pretty big gap. They're like: Because she's an Olympic champion and I never made it to the Olympics, then she's obviously better than I ever was. But she wasn't actually faster. In 200, my PR is 20.43; hers is 21.69. In 100, mine's 10.23 (I think); hers is 10.89.
I wouldn't test it, but there's still a part of me that believes maybe I could beat her at 100 meters.
Why not dust off the spikes? In case I was wrong. In case I lost. She's a fierce competitor.
7. She's rarely happy with a race.
I would say maybe five times, she's actually been happy after a race. That's the toughest part of being her agent: seeing her sad. After every race, it's kind of torture because I know most likely she's going to be not too happy about something. Not in a really, really bad mood, but really tough on herself. She always sees room for improvement.
I have learned: Give her a few hours, let her be. Then I can start trying to put things in perspective.
8. She has a very specific game face.
At the start line, I know whether she'll give the performance of her life. When they put her face on the screen at a Diamond League race, I can tell that she's aware of where she's at, and the crowd. She's still there with the rest of us. If somebody yelled something near her, she'd hear it. But in the Olympics, she's not even in the same place as the rest of us in the stadium are. She's so far out.
When she's in that far-out place, on the right side of her face, there's a little ripple in the back of her jaw that I can pick up on and see she's really tense ... She says she has the '21 face,' when she knows she's ready to run the 200 in 21 seconds. She furrows her eyebrows a little bit. Her lips are more pursed ... She's working really hard as she's visualizing, and it creates tension in her face.
At those times, when they say her name, she looks up, smiles, waves, then before the camera even has a chance to leave, she's right back, picking up where she left off in her visualization. She's already practicing exactly what she's going to do. That's when I know: She's gonna run fast. She's ready. It doesn't mean she's going to win, but she's going to do her job.