Sydney McLaughlin shattered her own 400 metres hurdles world record to win gold in 51.46 seconds on Wednesday, getting the better of fellow American Dalilah Muhammad in a thrilling Tokyo Olympics final that lived up to all expectations.
The 21-year-old stuttered on the penultimate barrier but surged down the home stretch to power across the line and beat her previous record of 51.90 set at the U.S. trials in June.
Muhammad, the 2019 world and 2016 Olympic champion, ran the race of her life to take silver, coming home in a personal best 51.58, while Femke Bol of the Netherlands took bronze in a European record 52.03.
“I’m absolutely delighted. What a great race. I’m just grateful to be out here celebrating that extraordinary race and representing my country,” said McLaughlin. “I saw Dalilah ahead of me with one to go. I just thought, ‘Run your race’.
“The race doesn’t really start until hurdle seven. I just wanted to go out there and give it everything I had.”
The showdown between McLaughlin and Muhammad, 31, was among the most highly anticipated of the athletics programme at the Tokyo Games and came a day after Norway’s Karsten Warholm destroyed his own world record in the men’s event.
“I can’t really (get) it straight in my head yet. I’m sure I’ll process it and celebrate later,” said McLaughlin.
It was McLaughlin’s latest blockbuster performance since joining forces in 2020 with famed coach Bob Kersee, whom she credits with taking her to the next level of the sport after she failed to reach the final at the 2016 Olympics.
The pairing also turned her idol – six-time Olympic gold medallist Allyson Felix – into her training partner.
“It’s just about trusting your training, trusting your coach, and that will get your all the way round the track,” she said.
Bol, who beat fourth-place finisher Janieve Russell of Jamaica by more than a second for her first Olympic medal, said she knew she had to bring her “A-game” just to get on the podium.
“Those other girls are so strong,” said Bol.
“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.”