EUGENE, Ore. — In the world of hurdles before Sydney McLaughlin, it took years to break records by fractions of a second, and winning races didn’t always mean rewriting history.
This once-in-a-lifetime athlete is erasing that mindset as fast as she is destroying the records she sets over and over again.
For the fourth time in 13 months, the 22-year-old McLaughlin set the world record. On Friday she ran the 400m hurdles at the world championships in 50.68 seconds. He broke his old record by 0.73 seconds, a ridiculous number for a race of this distance and an amount of time that, in the pre-McLaughlin world, had taken 33 years to trim.
She beat Femke Bol of the Netherlands, who finished second, by 1.59 seconds. McLaughlin’s main rival, Dalilah Muhammad, finished third in 53.13 seconds, a time that would have easily won the world title just seven years ago.
And yet, as McLaughlin summed up her takeaways from the night, a night in which she turned herself in in a race that has become one of the track’s must-see events, she was far from ready to declare that she had run the race. perfect.
“I haven’t had a chance to watch it, so I’m going to have to do it and go back and talk to my coach,” McLaughlin said. “But I think there are always things to improve. I think we are pushing the limits of the sport, especially in our event.”
After McLaughlin received his gold medal and heard “The Star-Spangled Banner,” world athletics president Sebastian Coe presented him with a check for $100,000, the prize for breaking the world record. This marked the fourth consecutive major race in which he has bettered the mark.
On a clear, perfect 72-degree night at Hayward Stadium, McLaughlin left Bol and Muhammad behind at the 150-meter mark. As the American reached the final corner, it was clear that it would be strictly a race against the clock.
“It was crazy,” Bol said. “I was so far ahead at the end that I almost doubted if I had really run a good race. Then I looked at the time and thought, ‘Wow, that explains a lot.'”
When McLaughlin finished, he leaned to the ground, looked at the scoreboard and said, “That’s great, that’s great.” He clutched his knees and smiled. A minute later, the mascot, Legend the Bigfoot, photographed her as she held up a sign that read, “World records are my favorite food.”
The 400 hurdles record of 52.34, held by Russia’s Yuliya Pechonkina, had been on the books for 16 years when Muhammad, not McLaughlin, lowered it to 52.20 at the US championships in Iowa in 2019.
At the time, Muhammad’s trainer, Boogie Johnson, said the Russian’s record had long been thought to look “a little soft” and ripe for a takeover. Muhammad broke it again, at 52.16, at the 2019 world championships.
That was a race McLaughlin lost by just 0.07, and it prompted her to make changes.
Since hooking up with coach Bobby Kersee, he has broken records at last year’s Olympic trials (51.90), Olympics (51.46) and nationals last month. (51.41). Now this: a 1.4% improvement in a record four weeks and a maiden voyage into the 50s.
“I definitely thought it was possible,” Muhammad said. “And after that race, I think 49 is possible.”
McLaughlin has set three of his four records on this very track at Hayward Stadium. She has turned what used to be the best one-on-one matchup on the track, her vs. Muhammad, into a one-woman show for the time being.
The big question: how?
Some answers lie in the combination of improved court surfaces, new spike technology that outperforms the great Edwin Moses compared to “trampolines in your shoes,” and a new training regimen employed by Kersee, who has worked with virtually everyone America’s greats. in the run-up to last year’s Olympics.
But above all, pure talent.
“It’s just putting everything you’ve done into practice into the race to the point where you let your body do what it does,” McLaughlin said.
Another way to look at McLaughlin’s dominance: Traversing the track while jumping 10 hurdles took her just 1.57 seconds longer than it took Bahamas’ Shaunae Miller-Uibo to win the 400 flat, which was held about half an hour before the Main event.
In the men’s race, American Michael Norman won the world title in 44.29 seconds, pulling away from 2012 Olympic champion Kirani James in the final 80 metres.
Norman received massive applause from the nearly full stands, although the emotional center of the night came a few minutes earlier. Javelin thrower Kara Winger, a 36-year-old woman undergoing her second anterior cruciate ligament surgery, threw 210 feet, 1 inch (64.05 meters) in her sixth and final attempt to finish second behind Australian Kelsey -Lee Barber.
It was the first medal in any major competition for the eight-time national champion, who set up a pulley and cable system in her backyard to keep up with her training during the pandemic.
And then came McLaughlin. She and Muhammad increased the US medal total to 26 in eight days. The Americans need five more to top their record for championships. The weekend is packed with relays, including the surprise return of Allyson Felix in the 4×400.
It wouldn’t be a surprise to see McLaughlin (and Muhammad) on the US 4×400 relay team, just as they were last summer in Tokyo, where they helped the US win gold.
Speaking of that 400th floor, McLaughlin scoffed at the idea that she, too, might have a future there.
“My coach thinks there is a lot more to do,” he said. “At some point, we could do maybe the 4 or maybe the 100 hurdles. He says let’s really enjoy the 400 hurdles while I’m doing it, and then if you want to expand, go from there. So the sky’s the limit for sure.” “.