Report26 Jun 2022

Olympic gold medalist Sydney McLaughlin breaks 400m hurdles world record


Sydney McLaughlin breaks 400m hurdles world record (© Getty Images)

On a day filled with highlights, meet records and world-leading marks at the USA Track and Field (USATF) Outdoor Championships, the best was saved for last on Saturday. 

Sydney McLaughlin punctuated a thrilling day at the reimagined Hayward Field at the University of Oregon by breaking her own world record in the 400m hurdles with a winning time of 51.41 seconds. 

That marked the second time McLaughlin has broken the world record at Hayward Field — the first time came at last year’s U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Track & Field with a time of 51.90 seconds — before she further lowered it to 51.46 seconds in winning the gold medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. 

Michael Norman and Keni Harrison also turned in world-leading times in the men’s 400m and the women’s 100m hurdles, respectively, and Keturah Orji added a meet record in the women’s triple jump on Saturday. But the day belonged to McLaughlin. 

“I think anything is possible anytime I step on the track," McLaughlin said. “I knew it was definitely possible, and I’m really grateful it happened. It’s just a great indicator of where I can be for worlds.” 

The first two times McLaughlin was involved in world-record races, she finished second each time to Dalilah Muhammad, first at the USATF Championships in 2019 and then at the World Athletics Championships in Doha, Qatar. 

But McLaughlin flipped the script in the next two head-to-head world-record battles with Muhammad, running 51.90 seconds at the Olympic Trials to break Muhammad’s world record of 52.16. At the Tokyo Olympics, McLaughlin lowered her world record to 51.46, and Muhammad was also under it in 51.58 seconds. 

On Saturday, McLaughlin ran alone but that didn’t matter as she improved her world-leading time of 51.61 seconds set earlier this month. 

“It’s Track Town USA what do you have to say?” McLaughlin said. “Any time I come up here, I can just feel something amazing is going to happen. I don’t think anything compares to your first (world record), but this is just a great indicator of where we are. I really think on a perfect day, whether someone is pushing you or not, it’s about going out there and racing.” 

Muhammad has a bye into World Athletics Championships Oregon22 as the defending champion and did not compete this week at the USATF Championships. Britton Wilson, the 2022 NCAA champion for Arkansas, was second in a personal best 53.08 seconds, and Shamier Little, the silver medalist at the 2015 World Athletics Championships in Beijing, was third in a season-best 53.92. That moved Wilson to third in the world rankings and Little to eighth. Femke Bol of the Netherlands, the 2020 Olympic bronze medalist behind McLaughlin and Muhammad, is ranked second in the world at 52.61. 

The scary thing for anyone else in the 400m hurdles is that McLaughlin, at age 22, says she’s just now figuring out the event. 

“I think I’m just learning the race better and as I’ve progressed over the years, I’ve learned the 400 hurdles,” McLaughlin said. “I’ve learned what a half-step should feel, patterns and all those things. Every time I step on the track now, I really feel I’m taking everything I’ve learned at practice. It’s a really cool feeling just to watch a race go the way you plan.” 

The plan for Norman at the World Athletics Championships is to get this first major global championships outdoor medal, something he hasn’t done in past Olympics or World Championships. After setting the world lead and Hayward Field record of 43.60 seconds earlier this season at the Prefontaine Classic, Norman dipped under that Saturday in winning in 43.56, just off his PR of 43.45 and the meet record of 43.44 owned by American record-holder Michael Johnson. 

“I think the Pre Classic was more of a test of my fitness to see where I was at, so I’m happy to see that I ran slightly faster than I did at Pre,” said Norman, whose biggest challengers at the World Athletics Championships figure to be defending champion and 2020 Olympic gold medalist Steven Gardiner of the Bahamas, Grenada star Kirani James and Americans Champion Allison and Randolph Ross, a pair of college stars for Florida and North Carolina A&T, respectively. 

Allison was second Saturday with a big personal best of 43.70 seconds, putting him No. 2 on the world list behind Norman. Ross, who ran 44.13 in winning the NCAA title and his fourth in the world rankings, was third Saturday in 44.17. 

Norman, who is still only 24 himself, hopes his experience leads to a win at WCH Oregon22. 

"I think the experience is a learning process," Norman said. “Track and field, it’s a very do-or-die type of situation, so you kind of learn and build upon every year. You either sink or swim, so you better learn to compete or you’re going to sink very fast. I think the experience has helped me up to this point. All the failures and hardships, all the dark moments have hopefully led me to come out on top.” 

Harrison, the world record-holder in the women’s 100m hurdles, has individual medals for past major global championships, but is still seeking her first gold medal. She was second to countrywomen Nia Ali at the World Athletics Championships in 2019 and second to Puerto Rico’s Jasmine Camacho-Quinn at last year’s Olympics. 

She won her fifth consecutive U.S. title on Saturday in a world-leading 12.34 seconds, just edging Alaysha Johnson, who was second in 12.35 seconds, a personal best. Alia Armstrong of LSU, the NCAA champion, was third in a personal-best 12.47 seconds. 

“To come and get the world lead going into worlds, I’m in a good spot," said Harrison, who eclipsed Camacho-Quinn's previous world-leading time of 12.37. “I think I just focused on my hurdles. I knew it was going to be a fast race. I knew I had to run as clean as possible and I’m just happy to defend my title.” 

Harrison is looking forward to returning to Hayward Field in three weeks for WCH Oregon22. 

"It’s going to be an amazing experience, to have family here and to just put it all together,” Harrison said. “I got silver at last worlds, so confidence wise I feel I’m right where I need to be. I want to be the American to come and run on American soil, and make my family proud. I feel like I have everything to get it done.” 

Cooper Teare and Sinclaire Johnson were able to get it done in winning their first 1,500m national titles and make their first World Athletics Championships team. Teare won a slow and tactical men’s race in 3 minutes, 45.86 seconds, using his kick to power down the home stretch and win over Jonathan Davis (3:46.01) and Josh Thompson (3:46.07). In the women’s 1,500m, Johnson won in 4:03.29, ahead of Cory McGee (4:04.52) and Elle St. Pierre (4:05.14). 

Teare is in his first professional season after starring at the University of Oregon where he set the collegiate indoor record in the mile and won the outdoor NCAA title in the 5,000m. He was fourth in the Olympic Trials 5,000m last year. On Saturday, he rode the home-track advantage to the win and set himself up for a return trip to Hayward Field for WCH Oregon22. 

“It’s surreal,” Teare said. “I literally had a dream that that exact same thing happened last night so it’s cool to have it actually come full circle and become reality. At the time, I was trying to just treat it like every other race and to win, that’s what we’re here to do at the home base, so I’m pretty happy with it. 

“I don’t think I can be defined by one event, which is great. I think I consider myself a 5K guy also because I never really gave myself a shot, and here I am now winning USAs, so if I keep moving down, I’ll be in that 4(00) in a couple of years.” 

Two athletes who are no strangers to winning national titles are women’s triple jumper Keturah Orji and women’s javelin thrower Kara Winger and they both won again Saturday. 

Orji, the American record-holder at 14.92m, won her sixth consecutive national title with a meet-record leap of 14.79m, breaking her own record of 14.59m from 2018. She needed that big mark Saturday because right on her heels was former U.S. record-holder Tori Franklin, who had a season-best 14.59m for second. In third was Jasmine Moore, the NCAA Indoor and Outdoor champion for Florida, at 14.15m. 

Winger, 36, is retiring after this season and said her career goal once the World Athletics Championships were awarded to Oregon, was to end her career at WCH Oregon22. Entering her sixth and final throw Saturday, she had a 3-centimeter lead over Ariana Ince, but was still missing the World Championships standard of 64.00m. She got that and her wish to return for WCH Oregon22 when she threw 64.26m on the final attempt. Maggie Malone, the American record-holder, who has the world’s best throw this year at 65.73m, fouled on all three of her throws. 

In other event highlights Saturday: 

• Talitha Diggs used her kick to come from behind and win the women’s 400m in 50.22 seconds, two weeks after winning the NCAA title for Florida. Kendall Ellis and Lynna Irby were second and third, respectively, at 50.35 and 50.67. Allyson Felix, who is retiring after this season, was sixth in 51.24 and will likely see relay duty at WCH Oregon22. 

• Chris Nilsen, the 2020 Olympic silver medalist in the men’s pole vault, won at 5.70m. Luke Winder, who cleared the same height on more attempts for second place, does not have the World Athletics Championships standard of 5.80m, but Andrew Irwin and Jacob Wooten, who tied for third at 5.60m, do So does KC Lightfoot, who finished fifth, also at 5.60m, and was fourth in the 2020 Olympics. 

• In the men’s 3,000m steeplechase, Hillary Bor won his third straight national title in 8:15.76. Evan Jager, who has been beset by injuries the past few seasons, was second in a season-best 8:17.29, and Bernard Keter ran a season-best 8:19.16 for third. Jager is the American record-holder at 8:00.45. He was second at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics and third at the 2017 World Athletics Championships in London.  

• In the men’s hammer, Daniel Hough won with a personal-best mark of 80.18m. Rudy Winkler, who set meet, stadium, and American records in last year’s Olympic Trials at 82.71m, was second at 78.83m, and Alex Young was third at 76.60m. 

•2019 World Champions Grant Holloway and Noah Lyles had the top times in their preliminary heats of the 110m hurdles (13.11 seconds) and 200m (19.95 seconds), respectively. Abby Steiner, who set the 200m women’s collegiate record of 21.80 seconds two weeks ago, led those qualifiers at 22.14. 

• In the men’s 400m hurdles semifinals, American record-holder Rai Benjamin led the qualifiers at 47.93 seconds.

By Ashley Conklin

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