Anyone watching the closing stages of the women’s 400m hurdles final at the US Olympic Trials would have had a serious case of déjà vu.
The top two protagonists – indeed, the two fastest women in history for the event – came off the final bend level with one another, just as they had done at the World Athletics Championships Doha 2019.
On that occasion in the Qatari capital, not much separated Dalilah Muhammad and Sydney McLaughlin as they negotiated the final barriers before Muhammad went on to win in a world record of 52.16, just 0.07 ahead of McLaughlin.
Fast forward two years to Eugene’s Hayward Field and the two women found themselves in pretty much the same situation at the US Olympic Trials. Shamier Little was actually level with the pair up until the eighth hurdle, at which point she lost enough balance to take her out of contention for the victory. Muhammad had the slight advantage at that point, but McLaughlin moved up a gear at the ninth hurdle and inched ahead.
And that’s where the déjà vu ended, because McLaughlin charged towards the finish line to stop the clock at 51.90, smashing Muhammad’s world record by more than a quarter of a second with the first sub-52-second run in history.
“Oh my gosh!” was the 21-year-old’s immediate reaction as she crossed the line. “It’s one of those moments that you dream about and think about when you’re going to be able to put it together. I knew, from the moment I woke up today, it was going to be a great day. Afterwards there was a real ‘I did it’ moment and I’m going to cherish this for the rest of my life.
“It was a really great competition, as always, and I knew it was going to be a fast race,” she added. “My coach and I have been training for this; this is what our year has been about, just getting to this point.
“We really put it together today. I’m super grateful and happy to be on the team and I’m excited to see what happens in Tokyo.”
This will be McLaughlin’s second Olympics. She famously qualified for her first Olympic team in 2016 when finishing third at that year’s US Trials at the age of 16, clocking a world U20 record of 54.15. She went on to finish fifth in her semifinal at the Rio Games, just nine days after her 17th birthday.
SOURCE: WORLD ATHLETICS