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Dalilah Muhammad is known for going out hard. It’s a tactic that has worked for her in the past: She’s the reigning World champion in this event. But today Sydney McLaughlin beat her to the first hurdle. It appeared that McLaughlin was trying a new strategy; it’s more characteristic of her to run a very strong final 100. After just four hurdles McLaughlin had completely made up the stagger over Muhammad, who ran in next lane.
It’s hard to tell the position of the athletes until they all reach the final 100. McLaughlin got there way before everybody else and then widened the gap even more. When she won the Olympics in Tokyo last summer, Muhammad was on her shoulder even into the finish. But not today.
McLaughlin finished in 50.68, a massive improvement to her own World Record. The people Hayward Field were louder than they’ve been all week. It’s the only World Record to fall, but McLaughlin is also massively popular. She’s got a million followers on Instagram and is rumored to be the highest paid athlete in the sport.
The race finished and Syd sat on the track. Motionless. She mouthed, “Thank you God, thank you God.” And then she sat there. For a while. The officials tried to usher her away but she said no. She just stared into the distance, not necessarily in disbelief, just kind of like she was longing for stillness.
“I was just taking a moment to enjoy what had just taken place,” she said. “So many times the race goes by and you forget what happened. I just wanted to soak it all in.”
One year ago, 52-seconds had never been broken. Then Syd did it. Before today, 51-seconds had never been broken. Then Syd did it. She was asked if 50 seconds can be broken. “Anything is possible,” she said. Both Muhammad and Femke Bol concur.
“There’s no such thing as a perfect race. I still think that wasn’t even a super clean race,” McLaughlin said.
Bol of the Netherlands closed hard to finish second in 52.27. She was 1.59 seconds behind McLaughlin, which makes this race the largest margin of victory in the event’s history at the World Championships.
Muhammad finished third in 53.13. It’s her fourth medal in the event at the World Championships (She won in Doha in 2019 and was silver in Moscow in 2013.) Before McLaughlin rose to prominence, Muhammad held the World Record. Her 51.58 from Tokyo last summer still makes her the second fastest woman in history.
McLaughlin stepped to the top of the podium and was handed a check for $100,000 for breaking the World Record.
Syd is deeply faithful. She says she’s a vessel for God’s will. “It’s not about me,” she said. “I’ve been given a gift and a platform but it’s not for my own glory.”
Syd has been running in Hayward since college when she competed for the University of Kentucky. “I’ve always had an awesome relationship with Hayward,” she said. For now, she said she might also try other events. She was a member of the U.S.’s gold medal winning 4×400 in Tokyo last summer. Today, her 400 time over hurdles would’ve placed her seventh in the open 400 meter final.
“There’s talks of doubles. There’s talks of switching. I have no clue,” she said. “If it makes sense, it makes sense.” What’s next for Sydney McLaughlin, none of us could possibly know.