Sydney McLaughlin is not well known but by the way she shattered the women’s 400 metres world record she will be one of the biggest names after the Tokyo Olympics.
McLaughlin finally outraced Dalilah Muhammad to earn victory, and improve that world record, at the US Olympic trials last week.
The 21-year-old’s time of 51.90 seconds shattered the record by 0.26 seconds and beat Muhammad on the night by 0.52 seconds. It was a sensational victory in what had been touted as potentially the best race of the 10-day meet in Eugene, but it also set up what could be the best race in Tokyo. Barring something unexpected, the rematch will come on Aug. 4 with the Olympic gold medal on the line.
“Truly just faith and trusting the process,” McLaughlin said when asked to explain her breakthrough.
McLaughlin burst on to the scene five years ago while still a teenager, telling stories about her multiple talents, which included juggling and riding a unicycle – and doing both at the same time.
Her 51.90 secs broke the record Muhammad set two years ago when they raced at the world championships. A few weeks before that, Muhammad set the world record by beating McLaughlin at the US nationals, too.
McLaughlin joined Bobby Kersee, the coach who mentored Allyson Felix, Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Florence Griffith Joyner, to see if he could help her surpass Muhammad. He put McLaughlin on a new plan, getting her focused on form and running shorter hurdles courses.
“It was trusting the process, and a lot of things you can’t really see coming,” McLaughlin said. “But just having the childlike faith in trusting everything is going to work out. Bobby’s really good at that.”
“She definitely pushes me,” Muhammad said of her rival. Then, she turned to McLaughlin and said: “Congratulations, you world-record holder. It’s going to be a battle in Tokyo for sure.”