The 400m hurdles isn’t always the main drawcard on the athletics programme, but it has been the shining star of the entire Tokyo Olympic Games for the past two days.
A day after Karsten Warholm and Rai Benjamin destroyed the men’s world record while staging one of the greatest races in history, Sydney McLaughlin and Dalilah Muhammad combined to produce another dazzling duet in an equally historic women’s final.
By the time both women were crumpled on the track and gasping from the effort of their duel in the sun, they had demolished the record books.
McLaughlin, world record-holder since the US Olympic Trials in June where she smashed through the 52-second barrier for women in this event (51.90), was forced to run almost half a second faster to defeat Muhammad, the world champion and defending Olympic champion, and win her first Olympic gold medal.
This is the second consecutive global championship in which it has required both women to break the world record in order for one to triumph.
In the US six weeks ago, 21-year-old McLaughlin had defeated her rival relatively easily. Muhammad was still recovering after contracting Covid-19 earlier in the year and was not at her best. But she has made remarkable progress in the past six weeks to rise to a new standard which very nearly earned her a second consecutive Olympic title.
As is her habit, Muhammad blasted out of the blocks in today’s final and established an immediate lead, which she would not relinquish until the 10th and last hurdle.
McLaughlin made her move coming off the seventh hurdle but slightly mistimed her stride pattern to the eighth hurdle, which curtailed her momentum temporarily.
However, she put herself back on course over the ninth and then attacked at the 10th, coming over the barrier full of running to edge ahead of Muhammad and take the gold medal in 51.46*.
Muhammad also set a huge personal best time, dropping more than half a second from 52.16 to 51.58.
SOURCE: WORLD ATHLETICS