As Stuart Weir gets prepped for the Commonwealth Games, which began today for track & Field with the marathons, we are finishing his columns from the Oregon 22 World Athletics Champs! I have to admit, this is one of my favorite columns from Stuart, as he gets it. One athlete is amazing, but three amazing athletes make it a race. Sydney McLaughlin gets that; it is time that our readers appreciate the amazing talent of Dalilah Muhammed and Femke Bol. Thanks, Stuart!
400H Three amazing athletes
What a privilege to be in a stadium in Oregon to see Sydney McLaughlin break the world record in 400h, having been in the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo last year to see her break the world record in that race. She is an amazing athlete, and here is a scary stat. The women’s 400 flat was half an hour before the hurdles. Sydney, running over hurdles, was faster than all but the first six in the flat final! But all three medallists are remarkable athletes.
McLaughlin’s season has been curious: a 100h in April, a 400h in early June, then 3 rounds of the US champs and 3 rounds of the worlds – winning all 8 races.
“I am super grateful. All the glory goes to God, and I am just really thankful for my team helping me to get to this point. It all came together today, and another medal for the team USA. It was absolutely unreal to have my family in the stands. I have never had them together in one place. So this was for me so big. After Tokyo, not having anybody was like redemption. The time is absolutely amazing, and the sport is getting faster and faster. I executed the race the way (coach) Bobby wanted me to. We were ready and tried and go out there and execute. I knew coming home that if I just kept my cadence and stayed on stride pattern, we could do it, and it happened. It’s very special to push boundaries for myself, focusing on the 10 hurdles and to be able to improve upon that; what else could I ask for.”
The first time I spoke to Sydney was in Zurich, 2019, just after she had won the Diamond League final. I was impressed with how self-critical she was, saying things like, “It wasn’t the cleanest race for me personally… There’s a month to go to see what I can do to fix my race”. I wanted to remind her that she had just won the Diamond League final!
Spare a thought for Dalilah Muhammed. In 2019 she twice broke the world record, running 52.20 at U.S. Nationals in Des Moines, Iowa, and then lowered it to 52.16 at the World Championships in Doha a few months later. I remember asking her about the world record in September 2019 between her two records. She said of breaking the world record: “I was hoping for it. I wouldn’t say I was expecting it. Wasn’t expecting but definitely hoping. 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.
“I was 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. I think the mental has been the most difficult”.
I asked her if breaking the world record gave her more confidence or put more pressure on her: “Definitely more pressure. I think it is just a little more pressure as everyone is stepping up their game”.
I also remember Daliliah seeing the world record as the culmination of a career of hard work. She had broken the world record at the age of 29 after 8 years as a professional. McLaughlin broke the world record at 21.
Muhammed has won medals at 4 World Championships in 2013 and 2017. 2019 and 2022 – gold, two silvers, and a bronze. She was Olympic Champion in 2016 and silver medalist in 2021. It is almost as if all that has been swept away as McLaughlin has taken over. Muhammed’s 2022 after-race comments were pertinent and honest: “I’m having mixed emotions, to be honest. It’s great to get a medal, but I came into these championships on the strength of having always gotten a medal at any championships despite any injuries. But as a competitor, you always want more. I think going into this sport, it was on my mind to be an inspiration to the people coming behind me and doing it the right way. I’m proud of the way we had this moment. I definitely want to keep this season going. I knew that at this race, I wasn’t quite at my best, but I was hoping for the best.”
Femke Bol was third in the Tokyo Olympics and second in Oregon. Prior to Oregon, she had come second in the 2022 World Indoors (flat) 400 and had won Hengelo plus the Rome, Oslo, and Stockholm Diamond Leagues. She came to Oregon confident. Her time in Oregon was 52.27, compared with 52.03 in Tokyo. Her assessment was: “I ran against the best in the world; Sydney is just very strong. I got third at the Olympics, so I am just very happy to come out with this time and especially with this medal. It was crazy. She was so far in front at the end, so I was always doubting if I really had a good race because it felt very good. And then I saw the sign, and I was like: Wow. This is just amazing, and it means a lot that she also broke the 51s barrier. Yes, it is unbelievable, but it is amazing to be a part of it and to come out second in such a race.”
The point of this article was to say, “yes, Sydney is amazing,” but let us not dismiss the talent and achievements of Dalilah and Femke.
Women – 400 metre hurdles
Statistical Summary by World Athletics
- Sydney McLaughlin, the Tokyo 2020 Olympic champion, silver medalist at the 2019 World Championships, and the world record holder, shattered her own world record in 50.68 seconds, a Beamonesque performance.
- McLaughlin bettered her own world record by 0.73 seconds, the 2nd best improvement ever in the event, after 0.77 seconds by Tatyana Storozheva (URS) back in 1977, when the event was in its infancy.
- Femke Bol (NED) was the silver medalist in 52.27, equaling her 2022 season best and is the =11th fastest performance on record, yet she was 1.59 seconds behind McLaughlin.
- The best previous finish by the Netherlands in the event was Ester Goossens in 1997 when she made the semi-finals.
- Bol’s time of 52.27 was the 2nd best mark-for-place at the World Championships. Muhammad’s time of 53.13 was also the best ever 3rd-place mark at the World Championships.
- The previous largest victory margin in the event was 1.26 seconds by Zuzana Hejnová (CZE) in defeating Dalilah Muhammad at the 2013 World Championships.
- Dalilah Muhammad (USA) finished third in 53.13 for her 4th medal in the event, equalling the most ever for the women’s 400 meter hurdles, held by Lashinda Demus (USA) and Yuliya Nosova-Pechonkina (RUS).
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