Teenager hurdles through qualifiers
HIGH-SCHOOL student Sydney McLaughlin hurdled her way onto the US Olympic team on July 8, becoming the youngest track and field athlete to qualify for the Games in 36 years.
McLaughlin, 16, revealed she had been overcome with nerves after arriving at the US Olympic trials to compete in the 400-metre hurdles, at one point fearing she would not be able to cope with the pressure.
But she maintained her composure brilliantly in the final on July 8 at Hayward Field, holding her own to clinch third place with a time of 54.15 seconds, a junior world record.
McLaughlin – whose father tempted her into track and field as a six-year-old with the promise of chocolate bars – said she was thinking of junk food as she powered to the line.
“My mind was on finishing the race and eating a cheeseburger,” she said.
McLaughlin is the youngest US track and field athlete to qualify for an Olympics since Carol Lewis in 1980.
Lewis however never took part in the Moscow Games because of the US-led boycott.
The last 16-year-old to compete in the Olympics for the US was 100m hurdler Rhonda Brady in the Montreal Games in 1976.
McLaughlin, from New Jersey, said she almost been overwhelmed by the occasion after arriving in Eugene.
“I think the first day was definitely the hardest,” McLaughlin said.
“I definitely had a moment where I didn’t think I could do it, and [my coaches] told me, ‘You’re getting on the line and running this race’.”
McLaughlin said she had been given incentives to succeed from an early age.
“I was six years old, and my dad said that if I won I would get a chocolate bar with almonds,” she said. “So I won the race and I got a chocolate bar, and ever since I kept running so I could get chocolate bars.”
Kori Carter, who represented the USA at the World Championships in Beijing last year, was left in awe after finishing in fourth behind her young rival.
“She is a beast. She’s the truth. I was in every single heat with her and she carries herself like a pro I know she will represent the USA amazingly,” Carter said. –