Allyson Felix at Urunchinga refugee camp in Uganda

Olympic champion Allyson Felix celebrated her 27th birthday on November 18th in Uganda, where she visited and played with children at Urunchinga refugee camp. She described her trip to east Africa, which also included a safari at Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, as a wonderful experience.

From Africa, the American sprinter traveled to Spain for another wonderful experience. For the first time in her very successful track career, Felix was named the IAAF Female World Athlete of the Year. “I’m grateful for the journey,” said Felix, “and I’m humbled to win the award.”

Her journey to the top of world athletics came after a spectacular performance at this year’s London Olympics. Felix won three gold medals – at 200 meters and as a member of the USA’s victorious 4 x 100 meter and 4 x 400 meter women’s relay teams.

Allyson Felix shows off her three Olympic gold medals on top of the Empire State Building in New York

The 4 x 100 meter squad, which also included Bianca Knight, Carmelita Jeter and Tianna Madison, set a world record at the Olympic Stadium in London, clocking 40.82 seconds. The four American athletes earned the Female Performance of the Year award at the IAAF awards ceremony in Spain.

Even before London 2012, though, Felix sprinted to Olympic success. She won a silver medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics and a gold and silver at the 2008 Beijing Games. At the world championship level, Felix has won eight golds, a silver and a bronze. Even with so many international victories, some track analysts feel she is underappreciated by the American sporting public.

Allyson Felix celebrates with the American flag at the Olympic stadium in London

Parker Morse, Senior Writer at Running Times Magazine, says he “doesn’t know why she’s not the most famous female athlete in the country. She has a great attitude, great ethic and great performances. I’ve never met anyone with anything bad to say about her.”

Felix was born and raised in the Los Angeles area and she has clearly been inspired by her parents. Her father, Paul, is an ordained minister and her mother, Marlean, is an elementary school teacher.

She has described her speed as an amazing gift from God and both parents were proud when their daughter graduated from the University of Southern California in 2008 with a degree in elementary education. So, she might decide to follow in her mother’s footsteps and teach children when her athletic career is over. Judging by her smile with the African children at the top of this page, Allyson Felix will be as comfortable in the classroom as she is on the track.