Sydney McLaughlin Runs 51.90 at 2020 US Olympic Trials to Break 400-Meter Hurdles World Record

By Jonathan Gault
June 27, 2021

EUGENE, Ore. — Sydney McLaughlin‘s first US Olympic Trials went pretty well: in 2016, a 16-year-old McLaughlin ran 54.15 in the 400-meter hurdles to become the youngest American track & field Olympian since 1972. McLaughlin’s second Olympic Trials went even better: today, she ran 51.90 to win her first US title and break the world record of 52.16 set by Dalilah Muhammad in the 2019 World Championship final.

Muhammad led this race entering the home straight, but McLaughlin took the lead coming off hurdle nine and sprinted away from her rival over the final 50 meters to become the first woman ever under 52 seconds. The last three championship finals featuring McLaughlin and Muhammad — the 2019 US championships, the 2019 World Championships, and tonight’s 2020 Olympic Trials final — have produced world records, the first two by Muhammad and the latter by McLaughlin. Muhammad was second tonight in 52.42, tied for the sixth-fastest time ever. NCAA star Anna Cockrell of USC ran a lifetime pb of 53.70 to grab the third spot over Shamier Little who had trouble with hurdle #8 and ran 53.85.

Muhammad congratulates McLaughlin on breaking her world record

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McLaughlin turned professional in 2018 following her freshman year at the University of Kentucky, signing a contract with New Balance rumored to be worth in the seven figures annually, among the highest in the sport. But for the past three years, McLaughlin had found her path to the top of the sport blocked by the 31-year-old Muhammad, who has steadily been building her case as the greatest 400-meter hurdler of all time. It was Muhammad who beat McLaughlin in the final of the 2016 Trials and went on to win Olympic gold in Rio, and Muhammad who beat McLaughlin in the 2019 USA and World Championship finals, both in world record time (McLaughlin ran 52.23 in that World Championship final, the fourth-fastest time ever).

With her win today, the 21-year-old McLaughlin sent a definitive statement that she is now the woman to beat in the 400 hurdles moving forward — though she will have to wait five weeks, until the Olympic final in Tokyo on August 4 — for the opportunity to earn her first Olympic gold medal.

McLaughlin’s heroics came less than 24 hours after an epic night of sprinting at the Olympic Trials, which included her male counterpart, Rai Benjamin, running 46.83 to come within .05 of Kevin Young‘s 29-year-old world record.

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