The expectations of Sydney McLaughlin were immense. The hype about her was not just about whether the Olympic champion would also win her first world title over 400 meters hurdles. Hardly anyone doubted that. The even more exciting question was: In what time would the 22-year-old American complete the stadium circuit peppered with ten 30-inch obstacles on Eugene’s Hayward Field in front of her home crowd.
What Sydney McLaughlin then showed on Friday evening in the TrackTown of American athletics took your breath away. She not only sprinted lightly away from her rivals, but also beat her world record by an incredible 0.73 seconds and to 50.68 seconds. It was the first world record of these title fights – and what a record.
It was expected that she could stay under her old best, but not with such a quantum leap-like improvement. The best time of Corinna Schwab (23), the best German 400 meter runner, is 50.91 seconds – without hurdles!
The acclaimed heroine herself could not believe what an epoch-making record run she had put on. “It’s unreal. Glory to God for getting me through this journey and thanks to my family and friends – it takes a whole village to get here,” said McLaughlin, still sitting on the tartan track. “I just wanted to make it. The last 100 meters definitely hurt.” But you couldn’t tell by looking at her. Even as she stared in disbelief as if in disbelief on the runners, she didn’t seem marked by the supposed effort.
“It’s TrackTown USA, what do you expect?” she asked with a mischievous grin after her gala performance. “Every time I come here, I have a feeling that something extraordinary is about to happen. I have a special affinity with Hayward Field, it always motivates me to achieve amazing performances.” Only the previous month she had set a world best time at the national championships there. After this race she felt that she was far from being at the limit. “There is still a lot to improve. It wasn’t the perfect race by any means”, she decided and was right.
“It was crazy,” said Femke Bol of the Netherlands, who finished second after 52.27 seconds. “In the end, Sydney was so far ahead that I almost doubted whether I really had a good race. Then I saw the time and I was like, ‘Wow, that explains a lot.”’
Sydney McLaughlin’s fledgling career is already riddled with milestones that, if she were to retire now, would make her the greatest hurdler in history. She holds the world best times on her special course in all age groups from 14 to 19 years. Her U18 world record is 54.15 and the U20 world record is 53.60. Since her last defeat at the World Championships in Doha three years ago, when she had to give way to her compatriot Dalilah Muhammad, she has broken the world record for the fourth time. Five of the sixth fastest times over 400 m hurdles come to her.
Her father, Willie, a former 400-meter sprinter who narrowly missed the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, realized early on that his daughter would one day become a great track and field athlete. “Sydney was always a little special,” says her daddy proudly. “When she was 14 years old, I saw it coming, which then developed over the years. It was only a matter of time.”
His daughter, who grew up on the US east coast in the state of New Jersey and lives there with her husband, is now one of the top earners in the scene. In addition to the $70,000 bonus for her world title, she also collects $100,000 for the world record. Your outfitter company pays an annual base salary of $1.5 million after a fierce bidding war between several companies.
Sydney McLaughlin was asked whether she would next break the sound barrier of 50 seconds. She rolled her dark eyes, smiled charmingly and replied, “I still have a lot to do. I think the sky is the limit.”