In the women’s 400-meter hurdles, seismic upheavals have occurred as a new generation of bold competitors pushes the envelope of what is achievable.
Sydney McClaughlin, a 21-year-old phenom, has taken over as leader of the one-lap hurdles revolution from fellow American Dalilah Muhammad, who recently set a world record.
Women 400m Hurdles Olympic Games Tokyo 2020: Sydney McClaughlin
Muhammad, 10 years older than McClaughlin, has been the leader for the past five years, setting the benchmark with his gold medal performance at Rio 2016 and his two world record breaks this year.
Add up-and-coming Dutch star Femke Bol, and you’ve got a race that could go down as one of the all-time greats.
Tokyo 2020 compares and contrasts these top female athletes in preparation for the Olympic gold medal event.
After qualifying for her first Olympics at age 16, McClaughlin’s meteoric ascension through the world of sports has been anything but unexpected.
After making her debut in Rio in 2016, McClaughlin has been living up to her enormous promise by setting age-group records in the 400m hurdles, including world records at the Under-18 (54.15) and U20 (53.60) levels, with the senior global mark to be added to her name at the US trials in June 2021.
McClaughlin has set the track on fire, but she has yet to win a national championship at the collegiate or professional levels.
Former youth world champion came agonisingly close to claiming the top spot on the podium at the 2019 Doha World Championships, but Muhammad’s world-record breaking performance put her in second place.
McClaughlin Finished a Respectable Second, Only 0.07 Seconds Behind Muhammed, on her 20th Birthday.
At this year’s US Olympic trials in Eugene, the prodigy avenged herself on Muhammad by breaking her world record and setting a new national mark in the 100-meter dash with a pace of 51.90 seconds.
On Wednesday at the Tokyo Games, Sydney McLaughlin broke her own world mark in the women’s 400-meter hurdles and became the highlight of the competition.
At the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials in June, New Jersey native McLaughlin, who trains in Los Angeles with legendary sprints coach Bobby Kersee, sparked a fierce competition with Muhammad.
Sydney McClaughlin Full Biography
McLaughlin was possibly born to be an athlete. Her dad, Willie, was a semi finalist in the 400m at the 1984 Olympic Olympics, while her mum was also a runner and her brother gained silver at the 400m hurdles at the 2016 IAAF World U20 Championships.
But Sydney has excelled them all: she is an Olympic gold champion and 400m hurdle world record holder.
McLaughlin’s ability to make history has long ago been written on the wall. She competed at Rio 2016 at the age of just 16, having qualified third in the US national trials — and eventually ended 16th overall, being ousted in the semi finals. At the time, her age attracted the headlines: McLaughlin was the youngest athlete to qualify for the USA track team since 1980.
While she wasn’t expected to medal at such a young age, athletics enthusiasts nevertheless believed they spotted a star in the making – and they were right to sense so. At the 2019 World Championships in Doha the young American earned silver in the 400m hurdles.
“I knew the race would be fast,” remarked McLaughlin after the Worlds. “But I didn’t anticipate it would be so fast. I’m still young and I’ve learned so much.”
When it comes to racing the hurdler has a straightforward approach:
“For me it’s kind of just focusing on myself and making sure I’m doing everything possible to be successful.” Though, she confesses, she wasn’t always so driven to winning. Her dad Willie used to bribe her to run with confectionery. “He offered me a candy bar if I ran, and I did.” McLaughlin claims, “I ran the 100 metres and came in first.” I was more thrilled about the chocolate bar than the victory itself. I suppose he enticed me to start doing this.”
McLaughlin’s race was promoted as a must-see in the lead-up to Tokyo 2020. Dalilah Muhammad, a member of McLaughlin’s American squad, won the gold medal at the 2016 Olympics. Their battle for the top rank has been widely reported; who will emerge victorious in Tokyo?
McLaughlin not only came out on top, but she also set a new world record with a timing of 51 seconds and 46 hundredths of a second. Muhammad, like McLaughlin, clocked in at less than 52 seconds.
The winner exclaimed, “I’m very happy.” Amazing race. Just happy to be here to celebrate this amazing race and do my part for my country.
McLaughlin’s winning time of 51.90 seconds at the event in Eugene, Oregon, broke the world record set by Muhammad at the 2019 IAAF World Championships in Doha, Qatar.
Over the past few years, McLaughlin’s fame has steadily increased. She only spent a single year at UK, but during that time she set a new record in her specialty before going pro.
She competed in both the 400-meter hurdles and the 4×400-meter relay at the 2019 World Championships, where she won silver in the former and gold in the latter.