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Sydney McLaughlin Beats Dalilah Muhammad in 400 Hurdles

Sydney McLaughlin Beats Dalilah Muhammad in 400 Hurdles
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Sydney McLaughlin Beats Dalilah Muhammad in 400 Hurdles

Sydney McLaughlin Beats Dalilah Muhammad in 400 Hurdles

TOKYO – Sydney McLaughlin likes to say “iron sharpens iron” when it comes to her relationship with Dalilah Muhammad. They are the first to practice their profession, the two fastest women to ever run the 400-meter hurdles.

The thinnest margins separated the two Americans, and it was no different as they dashed to the finish line at the Tokyo Games on Wednesday morning. As Muhammad approached the 10th and final hurdle, she had a slight lead. But Muhammad also understood that there was no margin for error, not with McLaughlin three lane to his left.

And that’s all it took, really: one small misstep. Muhammad could sense that she was carrying too much speed in her last hurdle, and she had to shorten her stride before crossing it, which slowed her momentum.

Muhammad still ended up running the second fastest time in history. But against McLaughlin, it was not fast enough.

Once a prodigy, 21-year-old McLaughlin broke his own world record to win his first Olympic gold, finishing in 51.46 seconds to edge Muhammad, the reigning Olympic champion, by 0.12 seconds.

Dutchwoman Femke Bol won the bronze medal in what would have been a world record less than two months ago.

“It hasn’t hit me yet,” McLaughlin said.

The world is witnessing a difficult renaissance thanks to a group of athletes doing things that were once considered incomprehensible. McLaughlin and Muhammad, 31, arrived for their race with new memories of Tuesday’s final in the men’s 400-meter hurdles, a race won by Norway’s Karsten Warholm who also rewrote the record books.

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“It definitely got a little bit of energy and adrenaline pumping,” McLaughlin said of the men’s record drop.

“Incredible,” said Muhammad.

Fast track? Fancy some shoes? The quick times at these Olympics are likely the result of a combination of factors, although athletes “are pushing the limits of what’s possible,” McLaughlin said.

In the process, McLaughlin delivered on the outsized expectations that had haunted him since he was a teenager in New Jersey. His path has not always been easy. Five years ago, before the 2016 Olympics, McLaughlin was 16 and felt the immensity of the challenge when she told her coaches she was too eager to compete in the trials in the United States.

And although she still found the strength to compete there and qualify for her first Olympic team, she then felt carried away by everything that was going on around her in Rio de Janeiro and didn’t failed to get out of his semi-final.

McLaughlin has since found solace in her faith, she said. She also established herself as the best in her profession when she broke Muhammad’s world record at the Olympic trials in June. In Tokyo, she isolated herself by avoiding social media and creating a familiar routine. She stayed in her room. She spoke with her friends and family. She focused on her goals.

“I think when you have a lot of outside voices it can definitely change what’s going on internally,” she said. “The further I can get away from this, the more I can stay as calm and relaxed as possible.”

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Muhammad faced his fair share of adversity. After beating McLaughlin at the 2019 world championships, his training was hampered by hamstring injuries. Then, she tested positive for the coronavirus in February.

“It’s been such a crazy time,” she said, “just with Covid and trying to fight it, not knowing if I would be able to get here. Looking back, I think it could have been help because it made me grow even more.

Muhammad knew that repeating as an Olympic champion would take an absurd amount of time. Her trainer, Lawrence Johnson, known as Boogie, told her in training that he believed she could run the race in 51.70, an improvement over McLaughlin’s existing world record of two tenths. of a second.

“And I was like, ‘Is this fast enough?'” She recalls.

His doubts turned out to be prophetic. McLaughlin and Muhammad made it a difficult time for everyone. Anna Cockrell, their American teammate, was disqualified for leaving her lane. But the race was otherwise familiar to him.

“It’s like a third world record race that I’ve been in,” said Cockrell, “so it would be nicer to be closer to the front.”

In his own way, McLaughlin could understand. She spent the first part of the year honing her technique running the 60 and 100 meter hurdles at the behest of her trainer, Bob Kersee. Leading with her dismount, which was another directive from Kersee, she placed last in her first indoor race of the season.

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