Another Race, Another Record
By: Jovia Zhang
Preparing for the 400-meter hurdles, Sydney McLaughlin knew there would be challenges and challengers that she would face. She knew she would race rising stars such as Dalilah Muhammad, a firm runner with an impressive list of achievements trailing behind her.
In the last few years, however, it seemed as if McLaughlin were challenging the clock instead of her rivals, breaking record after record while completely destroying her equally-talented competitors. Yet she’s still not accomplished all of her goals, further opening up and discovering new territories for what’s possible in her sport.
Even with all she has achieved, there are still more opportunities to shine, as she proved on Friday, July 22nd, when she broke the world record for the fourth time in two years, winning her first world championship with 50.68 seconds on the clock. All of this was accomplished during the women’s 400-meter hurdles at Oregon’s world championships in Eugene.
The second-place holder was Femke Bol of the Netherlands with 52.27 seconds. Muhammad came in third with 53.13 seconds.
What McLaughlin has achieved in her career so far is no joke. What you may not realize is that she could’ve pushed two of her rivals from Friday’s race behind her just by clearing ten hurdles. In fact, she beat her own record, set only 27 days earlier during the U.S. championships, by 0.73 seconds.
And McLaughlin still feels like she can do better.
“I think we’re all figuring out that, yes, there are 10 barriers, but we can run them a lot faster than people think,” she said, according to the New York Times. “I still think that wasn’t even a super clean race.”
Since coming in second behind Muhammad at the 2019 world championships in Doha, Qatar, 22-year-old McLaughlin has risen to become one of the most dominating athletes in the sport of track and field, showing both her competitive side and her determination to do better.
Just like McLaughlin, Muhammad is an Olympic and a world champion with a record that was shot down by McLaughlin. Despite the injuries that threatened to prevent her from training, she’s still pushing forward at 32 years old.
Bol, 22, who won bronze at the Tokyo Olympics behind Muhammad (silver) and McLaughlin (gold), could be the perfect rival to give McLaughlin the push she needs to get through the 2024 Paris Olympics, and maybe even beyond. Bol holds the seventh-fastest time for the women’s 400-meter hurdles in history, behind the six times belonging to McLaughlin and Muhammad.
But Bol still has some catching up to do, as seen on Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon, where the world championships took place. By the time McLaughlin crossed the halfway point, it was as if the rest of her competitors turned into dust – they were nowhere near her.
“I would definitely say it’s a flow state,” she said, “where you’re putting everything that you’ve done in practice into the race to the point where you’re just letting your body do what it does.”
McLaughlin, who was also a prodigy in high school, is the fastest women’s 400-meter hurdler in history. Just weeks after breaking Muhammad’s world record at the 2021 U.S. Olympic trials, she broke it again when winning gold at the Tokyo Olympics. Muhammad claimed second in both races.
McLaughlin shattered the world record again during last month’s U.S. championships, where she won with 51.41 seconds.
During Wednesday’s world championship women’s 400-meter hurdles semifinal, McLaughlin surprised everyone again when she slowed down several meters from the finish line and still won with 52.17 seconds, which was the world record three years ago.
Of course, there’s still the future. McLaughlin said she would talk with her coach, Bobby Kersee, at the end of the season. There’s a possibility of her competing in more races, both running and hurdles. Whatever event – or events – McLaughlin chooses to compete in will definitely shoot her further, breaking more and more records along the way.
“My coach thinks there’s a lot more to be done,” she said.