The Washington Post

Mclaughlin shatters record and cements legend

- BY ADAM KILGORE

eugene, ore. — On Wednesday evening, Edwin Moses meandered to the warmup track as the women got ready for the semifinals of the 400-meter hurdles, the race that made him one of the most indomitabl­e champions in track and field history. He watched Sydney Mclaughlin walk across the track with a scowl on her face. “That gladiator look that I used to have,” Moses called it. Bobby Kersee, Mclaughlin’s coach and his good friend, approached him.

“Bobby, your girl is doing really, really good,” Moses said.

“Hey, after chasing you down all those years, I learned a little something about the event,” Kersee replied.

Moses took the comment as a high compliment. Kersee once coached athletes who tried in vain to conquer Moses in the 1970s and 1980s as he won 122 consecutiv­e 400-meter hurdles races over 10 years.

“He’s put everything he learned

World championsh­ips, Day 9 Today, 2 p.m. and 9 p.m., NBC; 8 p.m., CNBC

from training guys to beat me and put it into her,” Moses said. “She’s absorbed it all.”

After decades of searching, Kersee found an athlete who may someday challenge the achievemen­ts of Moses — or of any other runner who ever ties on a pair of track spikes. On Friday night at the world championsh­ips, Mclaughlin radically reset the world record she has toyed with over the past year, separating herself even further from a pack that long lost sight of her.

At the start of 2021, no woman had run once around a track and over 10 hurdles in faster than 52 seconds. Mclaughlin has broken the record four times since then. She lowered it to 50.68 on Friday night as the sun set over Hayward Field, breaking her record by a staggering 0.73 seconds.

Mclaughlin’s time would have beaten two women in Friday’s 400-meter final — the one they run without hurdles.

“It’s a flow state, putting everything you’ve done during practice into your race,” Mclaughlin said.

Only 22, Mclaughlin resides on a higher plane within her event. Even at a meet in which Noah Lyles made one of Usain Bolt’s records tremble and Athing Mu is entrenchin­g her superiorit­y over 800 meters, Mclaughlin stands behind no one in the U.S. track and field hierarchy.

“She’s the prototype for the event,” Moses said.

Starting in Lane 5, Mclaughlin caught up to everyone on her outside by the middle of the backstretc­h. Around the second turn, she had passed everyone. When the final turn came, she already had made it a blowout. After she cleared the final hurdle, a pasture of brick-red track separated her from Dutchwoman Femke Bol and American bronze medalist Dalilah Muhammad, the friendly rival whose record Mclaughlin took at the U.S. Olympic trials last year and never looked back.

Afterward, Mclaughlin sat on the track on her backside, mouth agape, processing what she had done. Already an Olympic gold medalist, Mclaughlin is now a world champion and owner of a performanc­e that NBC analyst Ato Boldon instantly hailed as the best he has ever seen.

“I was taking a moment to enjoy what had just gone by,” she said.

As Mclaughlin further entrenched her status as a legend, another one made a surprise return. A week after announcing she had run her final race as the United States won bronze in the 4x400 mixed relay at the outset of the world championsh­ips, Allyson Felix will come out of short-lived retirement and run in Saturday’s preliminar­y round of the women’s 4x400 relay, a USA Track & Field spokespers­on said.

But this night belonged to Mclaughlin. She made the 2016 U.S. Olympic team at 16, stamped for greatness from the moment she began going over hurdles in Dunellen, N. J. By 2019, though, she still had not surpassed Muhammad, who set the world record while beating Mclaughlin at the world championsh­ips.

During the pandemic layoff, Mclaughlin switched coaches to Kersee, a legendary figure who has coached wife Jackie Joyner-kersee, Florence Griffith Joyner and Felix. Kersee is unconventi­onal and notoriousl­y demanding. He instructed Mclaughlin to watch old film of Moses, switching her cadence from 15 to 14 strides between hurdles. He entered her in 60- and 100-meter hurdle races early in the season.

“Bobby accepts people that want to come into the camp that know who they’re coming to deal with,” said Jackie Joyner Kersee, who has become a mentor to Mclaughlin. “He’s not going to change for any person. If you’re going to work with Bobby, you got to take all the good and all the bad that comes with it.”

Dominant and telegenic, Mclaughlin has been reticent to embrace celebrity. She married Andre Levrone Jr., briefly an NFL wide receiver, this spring, which she documented extensivel­y on social media. Otherwise, she shares little of herself publicly beyond athletic brilliance and devotion to her faith.

Mclaughlin glowers in the blocks. She rarely displays emotion on the track, even after she crosses the finish line. One lane over Friday night, Muhammad smiled and waved to the crowd upon being introduced. When Mclaughlin’s name boomed over the public address to raucous cheers, she stared at the ground, countenanc­e unchanged.

“She’s not messing around,” Moses said. “She sees, but she doesn’t see. I can tell. Her mind is so focused that she could see right through you. That’s how I was. I didn’t give a damn.”

The 400-meter hurdles is a race of navigating land mines. Moses viewed the course as an opportunit­y to make 31 mistakes — the start and then takeoff, flight and landing over all 10 hurdles. Runners rarely stumble over hurdles, but any deficiency in form can doom a competitor. Mclaughlin has the athleticis­m to leap off either foot, and her strength and speed make her wickedly efficient. She makes a complicate­d race seem simple.

“It doesn’t look like she’s moving that fast,” Moses said. “Sydney looks like she’s barely doing any work at all.”

Mclaughlin removed any drama from the finish of her race, but in the women’s javelin final, American Kara Winger made up for it. On her sixth and final throw, after exhorting the home crowd, Winger unleashed a throw of 64.05 meters (210 feet 1 inch) that catapulted her from fifth to second. Winger’s massive heave gave American women medals in all four throwing events.

As Mclaughlin carried her event to new heights, Michael Norman returned to his in the 400. Norman won gold with a gutty final sprint, edging a crowded field in 44.29 seconds. Around the final turn, Norman sprinted even with Grenadian Kirani James, Britain’s Matt Hudson-smith and South African world record holder Wayde van Niekerk. Norman managed a small lead and held them all off, raising his arms over his head.

“I just want to thank all the people who stuck with me throughout these past three years,” Norman said.

Norman became one of America’s best and most promising sprinters in 2019, tying Jeremy Wariner as the fourth-fastest man ever at 43.45 seconds. But he lost the U.S. championsh­ip that year to Fred Kerley and failed to make the final at the world championsh­ips with an injury. In Tokyo, Norman entered as the favorite but finished a disappoint­ing fifth before salvaging his Olympics by winning gold in the 4x400 relay. Still only 24, Norman is again on top of the world.

It was a good night for American men running once around the track. After adding to their debacle-laden history in Tokyo, the U.S. men’s 4x100 team — Christian Coleman, Noah Lyles, Elijah Hall and Marvin Bracy-williams — bolted one lap in 37.87, the fastest time in the world this year, in a preliminar­y round. In a display of their chemistry, Lyles led them afterward in an impromptu group rap of Meek Mill’s “Dreams and Nightmares.”

“Nice day at the office,” Williams-bracy said. “We’re just having fun.”

 ?? Lucy NICHOLSON/REUTERS ?? Sydney Mclaughlin won the women’s 400-meter hurdles, setting a world record at 50.68 seconds.
Lucy NICHOLSON/REUTERS Sydney Mclaughlin won the women’s 400-meter hurdles, setting a world record at 50.68 seconds.
 ?? Mike Segar/reuters ?? Michael Norman won the men’s 400 meters with a gutty final sprint Friday, edging a crowded field with a time of 44.29 seconds.
Mike Segar/reuters Michael Norman won the men’s 400 meters with a gutty final sprint Friday, edging a crowded field with a time of 44.29 seconds.

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