Tuesday, August 16, 2022

McLaughlin shatters 400m hurdles record

In the hurdles world before Sydney McLaughlin, it took years to shave fractions of seconds off records, and winning races didn’t always mean rewriting history.
This once-in-a-lifetime athlete is obliterating that mindset as quickly as she’s destroying the records she sets again and again.
For the fourth time in 13 months, the 22-year-old McLaughlin set the world record. On Friday, she ran the 400-meter hurdles at world championships in 50.68 seconds. She shattered her old mark by 0.73 seconds, a ridiculous number for a race of this distance and an amount of time that, in the world before McLaughlin, it had taken 33 years to trim.
She beat second-place finisher Femke Bol of the Netherlands by 1.59 seconds. McLaughlin’s main rival, Dalilah Muhammad, finished third in 53.13 seconds, a time that would’ve won the world title with ease a mere seven years ago.
And yet, as McLaughlin summed up her takeaways from the evening — an evening in which she delivered in a race she has turned into one of track’s must-see events — she was far from ready to declare she had run the perfect race.
“I haven’t had a chance to watch it, so I’ll have to do that and go back and talk to my coach,” McLaughlin said. “But I think there’s always things to improve on. I think we’re pushing the boundaries of the sport, especially in our event.”
After McLaughlin received her gold medal and listened to “The Star-Spangled Banner,” World Athletics President Sebastian Coe handed her a $100,000 check — the prize for breaking the record at worlds. This marked the fourth straight major race in which she’s bettered the mark.
On a clear, perfect, 72-degree night at Hayward Stadium, McLaughlin left Bol and Muhammad behind by the 150-meter mark. By the time the American reached the final curve, it was clear this would strictly be a race against the clock.
“It was crazy,” Bol said. “She was so far in front at the end, I was almost doubting if I really had a good race. Then, I saw the time and I thought, ‘Wow, that explains a lot.’”
When McLaughlin finished, she bent to the ground, looked at the scoreboard and said, “That’s great, that’s great.” She clutched her knees and smiled. A minute later, the mascot, Legend the Bigfoot, photo bombed her while holding a sign saying: “World records are my favorite food.”
The 400-hurdles record of 52.34, held by Yuliya Pechonkina of Russia, had sat on the books for 16 years when Muhammad, not McLaughlin, lowered it to 52.20 at U.S. championships in Iowa in 2019.
Back then, Muhammad’s coach, Boogie Johnson, said there had long been the thought that the Russian’s record seemed “a little soft” and ripe for a takeover. Muhammad broke it again, at 52.16, at world championships in 2019.
That was a race McLaughlin lost by a mere 0.07, and one that set her about making changes.
Since connecting with coach Bobby Kersee, she has broken the record at last year’s Olympic trials (51.90), the Olympics (51.46) and nationals last month. (51.41). Now, this — a 1.4% improvement on a four-week-old record and a maiden voyage into times in the 50s.
“I definitely thought it was possible,” Muhammad said. “And after that race, I think 49 is possible.”


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