Another day. Another extraordinary 400m hurdles final. Another dizzying world record. And another urgent question: was this the greatest ever track and field race … since, erm, yesterday?
Coming off the final bend three women, Dalilah Muhammad and Sydney McLaughlin of the United States – along with Femke Bol of the Netherlands – had a gold medal and a world record in their sights.
Off the final hurdle, Muhammad, the world champion, still led with Bol slipping back. But that barrier proved crucial, with Muhammad shortening her stride to navigate it and McLaughlin lengthening hers. By the time they touched down McLaughlin was closing.
And with 25 metres to go, McLaughlin, the 21-year-old who has long been touted as the next face of track and field, found a last desperate surge which took her beyond Muhammad – and beyond anyone else in history.
McLaughlin’s time 51.46 seconds, crushed her own world record by 0.44 sec. Meanwhile Muhammad, the reigning world champion took silver in 51.58, while Bol claimed bronze in 52.03.
It meant that for the second day in a row, the top two finishers in the Olympic 400m hurdles final had destroyed the world record – while the athlete in third would have been under the world record as of six weeks ago.
“I saw Dalilah ahead of me with one to go,” said McLaughlin. “I just thought ‘run your race’. The race doesn’t really start till hurdle seven. I just wanted to go out there and give it everything I had. I’m absolutely delighted.”
McLaughlin also praised her coach Bobby Kersee, who guided the career of Florence Griffith Joyner, having switched to train with him last year.
Under Kersee’s direction, McLaughlin focused on her form and running shorter hurdles courses to improve her technique. Training alongside Allyson Felix also helped.
“It’s just about trusting your training, trusting your coach, and that will get you all the way round the track,” she added. “What a great race. I’m just grateful to be out here celebrating that extraordinary race and representing my country.”
Asked about breaking her own world record one day after Karsten Warholm had done the same in the men’s 400m hurdles, McLaughlin replied: “I can’t really get it straight in my head yet. I’m sure I’ll process it and celebrate later.”
Bol, meanwhile, was delighted with her bronze. “I knew I just had to bring my A-game, those other girls are so strong. I got bronze but I’m so happy, wow.
“I felt that I was super-fit. I thought, ‘I’m going to go in hard and see where I finish’. I knew I was fast and I think I proved that to myself, I’m really happy about that.”