Dalilah Muhammed, Doha 2019, photo by Getty Images / World Athletics
The Thrill of Victory: Dalilah Muhuammed, photo by Getty Images / World Athletics
Stuart Weir sent us this piece on Dalilah Muhammed, the Doha 2019 WC gold medalist, who set two WR in one season at the 400m hurdles, once at the 2019 USATF Championships (52.20) and, for the second time, in 52.16. Stuart’s long term viewing of athletics provides a unique view for the reader into the athlete and the sport.
Dalilah Muhammed 16 questions
I think it would be fair to say that Dalilah Muhammed had a good year in 2019. World Champion – hurdles and relay – world record – twice, meaning that she has the rare distinction of holding World and Olympic titles and the world record simultaneously. Her full career record includes one Olympic title, two world championship golds and two silvers, four times national champion, twice Diamond Trophy winner and, going back, World Youth Champion. I have been privileged to see many of her races in the last few years and to speak to her on a few occasions. In the following Q & A, I was particularly interested in the mindset of being the fastest ever in the world in an event
1. When you broke the world record in the US Championships (2019). Were you expecting it?
I wouldn’t say I was expecting it. I was hoping for it. That day wasn’t the greatest of conditions. I wasn’t expecting but definitely hoping.
2. Did you feel any different on the day you broke the world record
No, but I knew I was zoned and ready on that day.
3. Can you put into words what it means to be the fastest ever at the distance?
I don’t have any words to put to that. It is really an indescribable feeling. Obviously you are happy, you are satisfied, you are joyous but there is also almost fear that comes along with it because I wasn’t expecting it, like Whao. It is a little bit fearful even at the top.
4. What was your mental and physical reaction to the world record?
Physically tired, obviously, but I don’t think it was one of my most exhausting races. I have run other races where I felt more exhausted. I remember the first time breaking 53 seconds was the most tired I have ever been. But this one did not feel like that so I think there is more potential. The mental aspect has been the most difficult to come to terms with, just mentally wrapping your head around it all, with 2019 being such a long season. I had won the US Trials but there was still the Diamond League final to come and then a further month to Doha.
5. Does having the world record put more pressure on you or give you more confidence?
Definitely more pressure. There is definitely a lot more pressure on me now but I think I put more pressure on myself. You want to be great and that pressure takes its toll on you especially when you are coming into a race with the fastest time. People might think it brings a lot of confidence but there is also pressure.
On the way to a WR: Dalilah Muhammed en route to Doha 2019 gold and WR, photo by Getty Images / World Athletics
6. Do you not have more confidence because you have run faster than everyone else?
Honestly, no. I think it is just a little more pressure as everyone is stepping up their game. The second time I ran sub 53 I remember feeling the pressure subside because it showed that I could do it again. When you run a really fast time you wonder if you will be able to do it again. So knowing that I could do it again made me feel good
7. How do you prioritize running fast, winning, being a champion?
I have been running track professionally now, this is year 7, and I think each year I have gained more knowledge of the sport and each year I have wanted to win more and more and that is definitely the top priority of mine.
8. What is a typical training week like?
You need to ask my coach.
9. Does that mean that you’re the type of athlete who doesn’t know what your program is going to be?
I definitely know but it’s his business. What he wants to give, is what he gives. I don’t plan the workouts. It’s up to him
10. Have you been doing anything different in training this year (2019)?
We definitely went up a bit in training, definitely more 800 based. Before, it tended to be more sprint based and I definitely think the change helped.
11. You were third in the Diamond League final. How did you assess that?
I definitely was not happy with how it went. I knew the race would be a struggle because we’d been training hard to get ready for worlds.
Dalilah Muhammed takes the lead, Doha 2019 (Sydney McLaughlin in second), photo by Getty Images / World Athletics
12. What was your mindset going into Doha?
London 2017 was good. I wanted to come home with the win but I got a silver. Having got silver twice at worlds, our plan for Doha was to win.
13. [After the Doha final]. Were you expecting to need a world record to win?
I’m just proud of all the work that my coach and I have done and all the people have helped me along the way. I knew it would be a fast race with all that talent in it but perhaps not that fast. World records are broken when you have a talented field. I didn’t feel that nervous I just felt well prepared and ready to run a fast time. Sydney made it hard and she is going to be around for the rest of my career and I am just going to go with that and push myself as hard as possible
Dalilah Muhammed & Sydney McLaughlin! ðŸ˜±pic.twitter.com/77baWdwJMX
— NCAA Track & Field (@NCAATrackField) October 4, 2019
14. Were you surprised to be chosen as athlete of the year?
It’s something I never imagined I would receive, so it is really, really good. This year I was working my hardest and it is good to have that recognized on such a grand scale
15. Looking back on the year of what stands out?
Obviously the world records, but also all the training that went into them. Every day I was being pushed to the max. It was a hard year, but we got through it and got the world records. Every time someone says “world record holder” back to me it seems a bit crazy even now. I think it has just sunk in. But now I’m focusing on 2020 so not much celebration but back to the drawing board and trying to improve.
16. What are your hopes for 2020? (question asked before Olympics were cancelled)
2020 will be my eighth year as a professional athlete I definitely want to enjoy it. I would love to defend my Olympic title. I would also want to enjoy track and field as it comes and get to see something of the places we visit. I’m really looking for to go into Tokyo. I had the pleasure of going in 2019 and I love Japan – all the food is great, that people are amazing and the atmosphere will be special.
Dalilah Muhammed, Doha 2019, gold and WR, photo by Getty Images / World Athletics
Leave a Reply