Sydney McLaughlin and Dalilah Muhammad Break 400-Meter Hurdles World Record to Win Gold and Silver


In one of the most highly anticipated match-ups of the Olympic Games in Tokyo on Tuesday, Americans Sydney McLaughlin and Dalilah Muhammad once again battled their way into the record books of the 400-meter hurdles.

This time, it was the 21-year-old McLaughlin who claimed gold in 51.46, crushing her own world record of 51.90 by nearly half a second. She set the previous mark in Eugene, Oregon, at the U.S. Olympic Trials in June of this year.

Muhammad, the reigning Olympic and world champion, finished just over a tenth of a second back in 51.58 for the silver medal. Femke Bol of the Netherlands was third in 52.03—which also would have been a world record before McLaughlin’s performance in June.

“I’m absolutely delighted,” McLaughlin told the media after her race. “What a great race. I’m just grateful to be out here celebrating that extraordinary race and representing my country.”

The 31-year-old Muhammad, who had both COVID-19 and a hamstring injury this year, started aggressively and held the lead until the final 40 meters of the race. McLaughlin stuttered on the ninth hurdle, but regained her composure, and with a clean clearance of the tenth and final hurdle, where Muhammad slightly stuttered, she was able to overcome her compatriot for gold.

“You know we’ve practiced the last 40 meters so many times in practice, so it was nothing unfamiliar for me,” McLaughlin said to reporters. “I knew I had to go and give it everything I had into a dip at the line.”

The victory was McLaughlin’s first Olympic medal. In 2016, she became one of the youngest track and field Olympians for the United States when she qualified as a 16-year-old, but did not advance to the final in Rio, where Muhammad won gold.

Since then, the two athletes have pushed the event from a near afterthought to one of the marquee races of the Olympic Games. They finished 1-2 at the 2019 U.S. Championships and World Championships, with Muhammad pushing to a world record each time. Then, at the pandemic-delayed U.S. Olympic Trials in 2021, it was McLaughlin’s turn to put her name in the record books, as the New Jersey native became the first woman to break 52 seconds in the event, lowering Muhammad’s record from 52.16 to 51.90.

“You need somebody who’s going to push you to be your best, and I think that’s what we do so well,” McLaughlin said to reporters. “It’s iron sharpening iron. Every time we step on the track, it’s always something fast.”

The world record was the second in the 400-meter hurdles in 24 hours. The previous day, Norway’s Karsten Warholm and Team USA’s Rai Benjamin also battled their way into the record books with a historic 45.95 to 46.17 contest, the two fastest times in history. Warholm’s mark took almost an entire second off his own world record, set earlier this year, which in turn had broken the 46.78 world record that had stood for 29 years.

Next up for track and field at the Olympic Games is the first round of the 4×100-meter relays, the men’s 110-meter hurdles final and the conclusion of the heptathlon and decathlon. The finale endurance challenge—the marathon for men and women—will be held this weekend.


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