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Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Sydney McLaughlin breaks her own world record in the 400m hurdles at the Oregon World Championships

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A preacher addresses onlookers leaving Hayward Field with religious messages about the eternity of the soul and the resurrection, but the crowd walking home from the University of Oregon campus pays little heed. Maybe because he doesn’t need messages to believe in the divine: you just saw a woman, Sydney McLaughlin, American, born 22 years ago in New Jersey, who ran 400m hurdles in 50.68 seconds, 73 hundredths less than the 51, 41s she set as a world record a month ago in Oregon.

McLaughin likes the Eugene Track, the site of three of his last four world records for distance – the other being in the final of the Tokyo Games – which has been remodeled to put the best technology at athletes’ feet to help them go faster. And it’s love, in a painful way: when she’s just passed the ten fences as if they didn’t exist, so alone that she doesn’t have to strain to beat her rivals, and yet shifting gears already runs against herself himself and against history, crosses the finish line and sits on the tartan

He looks down, shakes his head like he doesn’t believe what happened, and finally allows himself a smile. He’s having a hard time getting up again, his body is so overwhelmed with lactic acid, so he sits down again, drinks water and the medal is put on his head. It is incorporated for the photo with the marker on which the two searched words can be read: world record. But for the interview she comes back down to earth because it’s so hard to do what no one, not even she, has ever done.

Arriving at the finish line and McLaughlin showing the gap ahead of his competitors. Ashley Landis (AP)

“It’s unreal,” she says, and many think so: With this mark, she would have finished seventh in the final of the 400-meter dash at the World Championships a few minutes earlier, she could have run without obstacles in between. “Honestly, I wanted to run and try,” she admits to what everyone has seen: that her gold is running out and she’s looking at the clock for a tougher opponent. “The last 100 meters really hurt.” And no need to repeat it because everyone sees her limping, so close to the limit that her body reminds her of her mortality. Although the effort is rewarded, they give him a check for $100,000.

His closest rivals take time to emerge. Netherlands’ Femke Bol, silver, competes in 52.27 seconds, a difference of 1.59 seconds, the widest margin ever achieved in a final, and Doha 2019 World Champion Dalilah Muhammad then who was next to the desert sands Left his compatriot with the silver, he now sees himself dethroned and enters at 53.14. Both numbers are still good enough to be the best times of a second and third in World Championships history. Beyond the podium, the success of the Americans, who took the first World Cup ever in their country particularly seriously, is completed: Four of the top five in the final are Americans

McLaughlin, gold at the Tokyo Games, adds his first world championship to his record. He’s been preparing for this all his life. It cannot be said that it was a hidden talent or that it was discovered by accident. Her father was a 400 meter athlete, her mother ran in high school and her brother also competes in the 400 meter hurdles so they were able to quickly identify and nurture her ability until they became her, with her Appearing at the Rio Games aged 16, the youngest to be part of the Olympic track and field team for 44 years.

What do you think of when you walk past the fences? “I’m not thinking about anything. Sometimes it hurts, but mostly you feel free. There are races that I finish and I don’t know what happened,” the young woman explained in an interview. In a world that’s sometimes in the minority like that of athletics, she’s long been a star: she has a million followers on Instagram, where she combines photos of training sessions, promotional videos from brands that sponsor her, pictures with her husband – with the one who got married just two months ago – and religious and motivational messages.

Her new record leaves her alone at the top of the all-time ranking. 90 hundredths faster than Muhammad, second. And it is the first Oregon World Cups world record, until now an orphan of history. McLaughlin was a clear candidate for this, although she’s always making it harder for herself, and that may mean that once she’s got her hands on Olympic and world gold and the record, she might decide to go after new ones in the 400m Looking for motivations and also stalking the record of the German Marita Koch, which has lasted 37 years.

If anyone can, it’s her.

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