TOKYO – Sydney McLaughlin likes to say that “iron sharpens iron” when it comes to relationships with her Delilah Muhammad. They are prime practitioners of their craft, two of the fastest women to run the 400m hurdles.
The thinnest of margins have separated the two Americans, and it was no different as they bore at the finish line at the Tokyo Games on Wednesday morning. As Muhammad approached the 10th and final hurdle, he had a slight lead. But Muhammad also understood that there was no room for error, three lanes to McLaughlin’s left.
And that was all, really: one small mistake. Muhammad could feel that she was taking too much speed into her final hurdle, and she had to shorten her pace before clearing it, which slowed her down.
Muhammad is still injured while running the second fastest in history. But it wasn’t fast enough against McLaughlin.
A one-time prodigy, 21-year-old McLaughlin broke his own world record to win his first Olympic gold, finishing in 51.46 seconds to overtake Muhammad. Defending Olympic Champion, by 0.12 of a second.
Femke Boll of the Netherlands won the bronze medal in what would have been a world record less than two months ago.
“It hasn’t hit me yet,” McLaughlin said.
The world is witnessing a disruptive renaissance thanks to a group of athletes who are doing things that were once considered incomprehensible. McLaughlin and Muhammad, 31, arrived for their race with fresh memories of Tuesday’s final of the men’s 400m hurdles, A race won by Karsten Warholm of Norway Which likewise rewrote the record book.
“It definitely spews up a little energy and adrenaline,” McLaughlin said of watching the men’s record drop.
“Heavy,” said Muhammad.
quick track? fancy shoes? The faster times in these Olympics are the result of a combination of factors, McLaughlin said, although athletes are “pushing the limits of what is possible”.
In the process, McLaughlin meets the outside expectations that have shadowed him since he was a teenager in New Jersey. His path was not always easy. Five years ago, before the 2016 Olympics, McLaughlin was 16 years old and feeling the enormity of the challenge when she told her coaches that she was very eager to race in the United States trials.
And while she still found the strength to compete there and qualify for her first Olympic team, she later realized what was happening around her in Rio de Janeiro and pulled out of her semifinal heat. failed in
McLaughlin has since found comfort through his faith, she said. He also established himself as the best in his profession when He broke Muhammad’s world record At the Olympic Trials in June. In Tokyo, she has isolated herself by avoiding social media and creating a familiar routine. She stayed in her room. He talked with friends and family. He focused on his goals.
“I think when you have a lot of outside voices coming in, it can definitely change what you’re doing internally,” she said. “The more I can distance myself from it, the more I can be as calm and relaxed as possible.”
Muhammad has faced his share of adversity. After toppling McLaughlin at the 2019 World Championships, his training was hampered by hamstring injuries. Then, he tested positive for coronavirus in February.
“It’s been such a crazy time,” she said, “just trying to fight with and against Covid, and don’t know if I’ll be able to get here. In the end, I think it must have helped because it did pushed me even more.”
Muhammad knew that a repeat as Olympic champion would be an absurd time. Her coach, Lawrence Johnson, better known as Boogie, told her at training that she believed she could run in 51.70, two-tenths of a second over McLaughlin’s current world record. Improving.
“And I was like, ‘Is that fast enough? He remembered.
His doubts proved to be prophetic. McLaughlin and Muhammad have made this a difficult era for everyone else. Anna Cockerell, her American teammate, was disqualified for stepping out of her alley. But the race otherwise felt familiar to him.
“It’s like the third world-record race I’ve been in,” said Cockerell, “so it would be nice to be closer to the front.”
In her own way, McLaughlin can relate. She spent the early part of the year refining her technique by running the 60- and 100-meter hurdles at the behest of her coach, Bob Kersey. Leading with his off foot, which was another Kersey instruction, he placed last. His first indoor race of the season.
“Sometimes you have to lose to win,” she said.
She gradually gained experience and confidence and her looks improved. Above all, she said, the idea was to “feel the rhythm of running fast.”
On Wednesday, she was the fastest ever.