“Bobby, your girl is doing very, very well,” Moses said.
“Hey, after chasing you all these years, I learned something about this event,” Kersey replied.
Moses took this remark as a high compliment. Kersey once coached the athletes who tried in vain to beat Moses in the 1970s and 1980s when he won 122 consecutive 400m hurdles in 10 years.
“He put everything he learned into her teaching guys to hit me,” Moses said. She soaked it all up.
After decades of searching, Kersey has found an athlete who could someday challenge the accomplishments of Moses or any other runner who has ever tied a pair of spikes. On Friday night at the World Championships, McLaughlin drastically dropped the world record she had played with over the past year, further separating herself from the pack that had long lost sight of her, turning Hayward Field into a sort of fantasy land.
At the beginning of 2021, no woman ran the track and more than 10 hurdles in less than 52 seconds. Since then, McLaughlin has broken the record four times. She dropped it to 50.68 as the sun set over the blazing stadium, beating her record by a staggering 0.73 seconds.
Time McLaughlin would have beaten two women in Friday’s 400m final. One who has no obstacles. On NBC, analyst Ato Bolden immediately called it the best track and field performance he had ever seen. In the formula that World Athletics uses to score points in everything from pole vaulting to throwing, McLaughlin’s 50.68 is second only to Florence Griffith-Joyner’s 100m record.
“It’s a state of flow,” McLaughlin said. “Just by applying everything that you have done in practice, in the race, to the point where you just let your body do what it does. You don’t overdo it. You are simply releasing the gifts and talents God has given you.”
Noah Lyles made history by setting the American record in the 200m.
At just 22 years old, McLaughlin is at a higher level through his event. Even in competitions where Noah Liles shakes one of Usain Bolt’s records and Ating Moo solidifies his dominance in the 800m, McLaughlin doesn’t rank behind anyone in the US track and field hierarchy.
“She is the prototype of the event,” Moses said.
McLaughlin has already set her sights on new worlds to conquer. She said that she and Kersey discussed switching to a new event – the 400m or 100m hurdles – or even adding an event and trying to win a double individual medal. The schedule for the 2023 World Championships and the 2024 Paris Olympics will allow her to run both the 400m hurdles and the 400m flat.
“Bobby is always coming up with new ideas, so it’s hard to pick just one,” McLaughlin said. “There is talk of doppelgangers, there is talk of switching. To be honest, I have no idea. It’s something we’ll come home after the season, discuss, see what we want to do.”
If McLaughlin goes further, she made her last major 400m hurdles an ode to the event. Starting from lane 5, McLaughlin caught up with everyone outside to the middle of the back leg. At the second turn, she overtook everyone. When the last turn came, she had already done it. After she cleared the final hurdle, a brick red carpet separated her from Dutch Femke Bol and US bronze medalist Delilah Muhammad, a friendly rival whose record McLaughlin set at the US Olympic Trials last year and has never looked back.
“I definitely thought 50 was a possibility,” Mohammed said. “After this race, I think a 49th result is possible.” She paused. “For Sydney”.
Already twice an Olympic champion, McLaughlin is now a world champion, something that people who understand this sport could hardly imagine. After that, McLaughlin sat on her side on the path, her legs burning, her mouth gaping, considering what she had done.
“So many times the race goes by and you forget what’s going on,” McLaughlin said. “I really just wanted to sit there for a bit and soak it all up.”
As McLaughlin further cemented her status as a legend, another unexpectedly returned. A week after announcing she ran her final race as the United States took bronze in the 4×400 medley relay at the start of the World Championship, Allison Felix will come out of a short retirement to compete in Saturday’s preliminary round of the women’s 4×400 relay. This was announced by a representative of USA Track & Field.
Friday night belonged to McLaughlin. She made the 2016 U.S. Olympic team at age 16, acclaimed for her greatness from the moment she started breaking barriers in Dunellen, New Jersey. However, by 2019, she still hadn’t surpassed Muhammad, who set a world record by beating McLaughlin at the World Championship.
During a layoff due to the pandemic, McLaughlin changed coaches to Kersey, the legendary figure who coached wife Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Griffith Joyner and Felix. Kersey is unconventional and very demanding. He assigned McLaughlin to watch an old film about Moses, switching her pace from 15 to 14 steps between obstacles. He competed in the 60m and 100m hurdles earlier in the season.
“Bobby takes people into the camp who know who they’re dealing with,” said Jackie Joyner-Kersee, who became McLaughlin’s mentor. “He’s not going to change for anyone. If you’re going to work with Bobby, you have to embrace the good and the bad that comes with it.”
Domineering and telegenic, McLaughlin had a reserved attitude towards celebrities. This spring, she married Andre Levrone Jr., a former NFL player, which she has documented extensively on social media. Otherwise, she reveals little about herself in public other than athletic brilliance and devotion to her faith.
“I was given a gift and a platform, but it’s not for my own glory,” McLaughlin said. “It helped me avoid a lot of things that could get me into trouble. … I limit my social networks. I limit how much I’m on these things. Because after all, they won’t be able to help me when I sit on that line.”
McLaughlin looks angrily at the blocks. She rarely shows emotion on the track, even after she crosses the finish line. One Friday evening, Muhammad smiled and waved to the crowd as he was introduced. When McLaughlin’s name came out in public to cheers, she stared at the ground, her expression unchanged.
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“She doesn’t mess around,” Moses said. “She sees, but does not see. I can say. Her mind is so focused that she could see right through you. That’s how I was. I didn’t care.
The 400m hurdles is a blast race. Moses viewed the course as an opportunity to make 31 mistakes – starting, then taking off, flying and landing through all 10 obstacles. Runners rarely trip over obstacles, but any lack of form can doom an athlete to death. McLaughlin has the athleticism to jump with either foot, and her strength and speed make her incredibly efficient. She makes a difficult race seem easy.
“She doesn’t seem to be moving that fast,” Moses said. “Sidney looks like she barely works at all.”
McLaughlin took all the drama out of her race, but in the final women’s javelin throw, American Kara Winger made up for it. On her sixth and final throw, after exhorting the home crowd, Winger landed a 64.05 meters (210 ft 1 in) throw that catapulted her from fifth place to second. Winger’s powerful throw earned the Americans medals in all four throwing competitions. At 36, Winger saw her last shot at a major championship earn her her first medal.
As McLaughlin took her run to new heights, Michael Norman returned to his 400m run. Norman won the gold with a fast-paced final sprint 44.29 seconds ahead of a crowded field. At the last corner, Norman even ran with the grenadine Kirani James, the British Matt Hudson-Smith and the South African Wade van Niekerk, the world record holder. Norman managed to get ahead and hold them all by raising his arms above his head.
“I just want to thank all the people who have been with me for the past three years,” Norman said.
Norman emerged as one of America’s best and most promising sprinters in 2019, making Jeremy Wariner the fourth fastest man in 43.45 seconds. But he lost the U.S. Championship that year to Fred Curley and was unable to reach the World Championship final due to injury. In Tokyo, Norman emerged as the favorite but finished a disappointing fifth before saving his Olympics by winning gold in the 4×400 relay. Only 24 years old, and Norman is back on top of the world.
It was a good night for the American men who ran the track once. After a bad story in Tokyo, the US men’s 4×100 team of Christian Coleman, Noah Liles, Elijah Hall and Marvin Bracey-Williams added one lap of 37.87 seconds to their bad record, the fastest time in the world this year, in preliminary round. . Showcasing their chemistry, Lyles then led an impromptu group rap of Meek Mill’s “Dreams and Nightmares”.
“Nice day at the office,” Williams-Bracey said. “We’re just having fun.”
The show stopped as soon as McLaughlin entered the blocks. She is only 22 years old. She is a gold medalist and world champion, an athlete who performs at a level that few of her peers can imagine, let alone know. She could expand her sports horizons, or continue to develop her specialty, or both. She achieved greatness at such a young age, and yet she remains unsatisfied.
“I think there is still a lot to be done,” McLaughlin said. “I think we all understood that yes, there are 10 barriers, but we can overcome them much faster than people think. There is no perfect race.”
It may be so. But almost no one has come closer than Sidney McLaughlin, a 22-year-old who has everything and still wants more.
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