EUGENE, Oregon. — In the world of hurdling, it took years before Sydney McLaughlin to break records by a fraction of a second, and winning races didn’t always mean rewriting history.
This once-in-a-lifetime athlete erases that mindset as quickly as she destroys the records she sets over and over again.
For the fourth time in 13 months, 22-year-old McLaughlin set a world record. On Friday, she ran the 400m hurdles at the World Championships in 50.68 seconds. She beat her old mark by 0.73 seconds, a ludicrous result for a race of such distance and time that it took 33 years in the pre-McLaughlin world to cut.
“It’s unrealistic,” McLaughlin said in an interview after the race at the track.
She beat runner-up Femke Bol of the Netherlands by 1.59 seconds. McLaughlin’s main rival, Delilah Muhammad, finished third in 53.13 seconds, which would have easily won the world title just seven years ago.
And yet, when McLaughlin recapped her findings from the evening — the evening she raced in the race she turned into one of her must-attend events on the track — she was far from claiming to have run the perfect race. .
“I didn’t get a chance to watch it, so I’ll have to do it and go back and talk to my coach,” McLaughlin said. But I think there is always room for improvement. I think we are pushing the boundaries of the sport, especially in our tournament.”
After McLaughlin received her gold medal and auditioned for the Stars and Stripes, World Athletics President Sebastian Coe presented her with a check for $100,000, the world record prize. This was the fourth major race in a row in which she improved. mark.
On a clear, perfect night in 72-degree temperatures at Hayward Field, McLaughlin was ahead of Bol and Mohammed at the 150m mark. By the time the American reached the final corner, it was clear that it would be a time trial.
“It was crazy,” Bol said. “At the end she was so far ahead that I almost doubted if I really had a good race. Then I saw the time and thought, “Wow, that explains a lot.”
When McLaughlin finished, she leaned down to the ground, looked at the scoreboard, and said, “That’s great, that’s great.” She clutched her knees and smiled. A minute later, Legend’s mascot Bigfoot took a picture of her holding a sign. saying, “World records are my favorite food.”
Yulia Pechonkina of Russia’s 400 hurdles record of 52.34 stood for 16 years when Muhammad, not McLaughlin, cut it to 52.20 at the 2019 Iowa US Championships.
At the time, Mohammed’s trainer Boogie Johnson said it had long been thought the Russian’s track record seemed “a little bland” and ripe for a takeover. Muhammad beat him again, 52.16, at the 2019 World Championships.
It was a race that McLaughlin lost by just 0.07 and forced her to make changes.
Since contacting coach Bobby Kersey, she has broken last year’s Olympic Trials (51.90), Olympics (51.46) and last month’s Nationals (51.41) records. So this is a 1.4% improvement over the record four weeks ago and the first trip in the 50s.
“I definitely thought it was possible,” Muhammad said. “And after this race, I think 49 points is possible.”
McLaughlin set three of her four records on this track at Hayward Field. She turned what was once the best one-on-one matchup on the track—her versus Muhammad—into a one-woman show.
Big question: how?
Some of the answers lie in the combination of improved track covers, new stud technology that has taken the great Edwin Moses over “trampolines on boots”, and a new training regimen used by Kersey that has worked with virtually all of America’s great athletes. ahead of last year’s Olympics.
But mostly pure talent.
“It’s just applying everything you’ve done in practice to the race to the point where you just let your body do what it does,” McLaughlin said.
Another way to look at McLaughlin’s dominance is that it took her just 1.57 seconds longer to cross the 10-hurdle course than it took Bahamas’ Sean Miller-Weebo to win the 400-flat race, held about half an hour before the main event. developments.
In the men’s race, American Michael Norman won the world title in 44.29 seconds, breaking away from 2012 Olympic champion Kirani James in the last 80 meters.
Norman received thunderous applause from the almost full stands, although the emotional center of the evening came a few minutes early. Javelin thrower Cara Winger, 36, after undergoing a second ACL operation, threw 64.05 meters (210 ft 1 in) in her sixth and final attempt to finish second behind Australia’s Kelsey-Lee Barber.
It was the first medal in any major competition for the eight-time national champion, who installed a rope-and-pulley system in her backyard to keep up with her training during the pandemic.
And then there was McLaughlin. She and Muhammad increased the US medal total to 26 in eight days. The Americans need five more to break the championship record. The weekend is packed with relays, including the surprise return of Allison Felix in the 4×400.
Not surprisingly, McLaughlin (and Mohammed) are also part of the US 4×400 relay team, as they did last summer in Tokyo, where they helped the US win gold.
Talking about that 400 apartment, McLaughlin teased the thought that she, too, might have a future.
“My coach thinks there is still a lot to be done,” she said. “At some point we could do maybe 4 or maybe 100 hurdles. He says just enjoy 400 hurdles while I do it, and then if you want to expand, go ahead. So, of course, there is no limit to the possibilities.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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