Sydney McLaughlin Runs 50.68 to Destroy 400m Hurdles World Record & Win 2022 World Title

By Jonathan Gault
July 22, 2022

EUGENE, Ore. – Every so often, a track & field performance comes along that is so great we are forced to collectively reassess what human beings are capable of. Bob Beamon’s 8.90-meter long jump in Mexico City. Usain Bolt’s 9.58 for 100 meters in Berlin. Karsten Warholm’s 45.94 for 400-meter hurdles in Tokyo. And tonight, in the 2022 World Championship final at Hayward Field, Sydney McLaughlin’s 50.68 in the 400-meter hurdles.

All mind-blowing in their own way, and good luck sorting out which performance is the best ever. But what is truly ridiculous about McLaughlin’s most recent record is that we had already seen a mind-blowing world record from McLaughlin less than a year ago. On August 4, 2021, McLaughlin ran 51.46 in the Olympic final in Tokyo to take a monstrous .44 of a second off the world record. A record that McLaughlin already owned by running 51.90 at the US Olympic Trials on June 27, 2021, taking .26 off Dalilah Muhammad’s previous mark. Oh, and in between Tokyo and Eugene, she also ran another world record of 51.41 at the US championships in June 2022.

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If you’re struggling to keep up, that’s four world records in 13 months, during which McLaughlin lopped 1.48 seconds off the previous fastest time. In June 2021, McLaughlin became the first woman to break 52 seconds and on the same track barely a year later became the first woman under 51.

Fifty-four years ago, after Beamon improved the long jump world record by 55 cm (21 ⅔ inches) to win Olympic gold in Mexico City, the reigning champion, Lynn Davies of Great Britain, told him, “you have destroyed this event.” The same applies to McLaughlin, who is now .90 of a second faster than every other woman in history.

The race itself was over by the backstraight. McLaughlin, running in lane 5, had made up the stagger on Muhammad – herself the second-fastest woman in history – and everyone else on her outside by the start of the final turn, and for the last 200 meters, she ran alone, the crowd roaring her home until the clock stopped at 50.68. Femke Bol, the third-fastest woman in history, earned silver in 52.27, with Muhammad claiming bronze in 53.13.

Despite the colossal improvement on the world record, McLaughlin said after the race she felt there was still room for her to improve the record. Her competitors agreed.

“I definitely thought 50 was possible,” said Muhammad, whose 51.58 pb is #2 all-time. “After that race, I think 49 is possible. It’s Sydney.”

Whether McLaughlin will get the opportunity to improve it is another question. McLaughlin has set the world record in four of her last five 400m hurdles finals (in the fifth, she ran 51.61 ,#5 all-time, despite the hurdles being spaced incorrectly). She is the Olympic and world champion. At the age of 22, she is already the greatest of all time in her event. There are no worlds left for her to conquer in the 400 hurdles.

What, exactly, McLaughlin would pursue is yet to be determined (McLaughlin said she would discuss future plans with her coach Bobby Kersee after the season). Kersee told NBC Sports’ Ato Boldon that McLaughlin will eventually move to the 400 and chase Marita Koch’s world record of 47.60 from 1985. McLaughlin could focus on that event alone or try to win the flat 400/400 hurdles double, which has never been achieved at a Worlds or Olympics. She has also raced the 100 hurdles a number of times as a pro – her personal best of 12.65 ranked #19 in the world last year – and could pursue that. 

McLaughlin could retire today and her legacy would be secure as the greatest 400 hurdler of all time and author of one of the finest performances in the history of the sport. What further success lies ahead, and in what event? Impossible to say. Only one thing is certain: it will be worth watching.

Results

POS
BIB
COUNTRY ATHLETE
MARK
1
1188
USA
50.68 WR
2
948
NED
52.27 =SB
3
1193
USA
53.13 SB
4
1183
USA
53.76
5
1218
USA
54.02
6
834
JAM
54.36
7
999
PAN
54.75
8
1133
UKR
54.93

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More Day 8 Action: Sydney McLaughlin Runs 50.68 to Destroy 400m Hurdles World Record & Win 2022 World Title McLaughlin took a ridiculous .73 off the 51.41 record she set at USAs in June.

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