Sydney McLaughlin, youngest U.S. track and field Olympian, in whirlwind summer

Sydney McLaughlin
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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Sydney McLaughlin is running with a fast crowd these days. The 16-year-old sprinter and hurdler heads to the Rio Olympics as the youngest member of the U.S. track and field team. First, though, she wants to get home, hug her dog and eat some junk food before taking on the world.

McLaughlin caps a whirlwind few weeks with a stroll down the red carpet at the ESPY Awards on Wednesday night. She’s attending as winner of the girls’ national prep athlete of the year trophy she picked up Tuesday night.

She arrived in Los Angeles directly from making her first Olympic team by finishing third in the 400-meter hurdles at the U.S. trials last Sunday in Oregon. Her time of 54.14 seconds was a world junior record.

“I don’t think it’s hit me yet,” she said.

After mingling with some of the world’s best professional athletes, McLaughlin goes home to Dunellen, New Jersey, for a brief visit. She’s missing Gamble her cockapoo dog, whom she hasn’t seen in three weeks.

Her parents, Willie and Mary, are scrambling to join her in Rio.

“There’s no way we’re going to let our baby girl go to another country without us being there,” said Willie, who works from home as a network engineer for AT&T. “Besides, how many times do you get to see your kids in the Olympics?”

Mary joked, “We’ll just be buying a lot of bug spray.”

Willie McLaughlin qualified for the 400-meter semifinals at the 1984 U.S. trials, but didn’t make the Olympic team. Mary McLaughlin, who works at Rutgers University, is a former runner, too. The couple met at Manhattan College in New York City.

“We planned for it for years,” Willie said of his daughter’s Olympic qualification, “but it’s actually here and it’s hard to believe.”

Her sister and two brothers will watch from the couch “and party at the house,” Sydney joked.

McLaughlin couldn’t have predicted she would be in Rio. Her high school track season began with a diagnosis of mononucleosis that kept her out 1 ½ months. Her mother had a heart attack.

“Every Olympian has two or three major struggles before they make it,” she told the crowd at the prep awards. “I didn’t know if I was going to make it and somehow I did.”

At trials, McLaughlin had what she called “a mental breakdown” before her first event. She called her dad in full freak-out mode, panicked at the prospect of being a teen running against grown women.

Her coaches calmed her down and “three races later I’m an Olympian,” she said.

“When you put her on the track, you’re not running against a 16-year-old,” Willie McLaughlin said. “You’re running against a very talented, seasoned athlete. That’s what these women are finding out the hard way. I told her, ‘They’re more scared of you than you are of them. They’ve got more to lose than you and that’s the attitude you need to take into it.'”

McLaughlin has a modest goal for her first Games.

“I’m just going to get the experience. There’s so many more years to try again and so many more races to run,” she said. “I don’t even think I’m thinking about place or time. I’m going to hang out with the girls on the team. It’s kind of like vacation and work at the same time.”

From a dad’s perspective, Willie McLaughlin hopes his daughter gains confidence and hones the ability to interact and talk with anyone at the Olympics.

“She’s been really blessed with talent that other people simply don’t have,” he said.

McLaughlin told Sydney that because of her track talent she can go places and do things that others can’t.

“Don’t be afraid of that,” he told her. “Don’t be afraid of doing things new.”

From his perspective as a track coach, Willie is encouraging his daughter to step up her nutrition and embrace the lifestyle of a high-level athlete. That means cutting out junk food and some of “the 16-year-old baggage,” as he calls it.

“We had the boys, going to the mall, all that other stuff,” he said, smiling. “She needs to mature into that woman that’s really going to take care of her body and take care of her instrument of success.”

Sydney, named for her dad’s favorite actor Sidney Poitier, is already showing her stuff in the nail art department. McLaughlin’s long fingernails were decked out in sparkling silver polish, a popular trend among female sprinters.

She turns 17 on Aug. 7, days before the track competition begins in Rio. She’ll be a senior this fall at Union Catholic High in Scotch Plains with some wild stories to tell.

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Eliud Kipchoge breaks marathon world record in Berlin

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Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge broke his own world record in winning the Berlin Marathon, clocking 2:01:09 to lower the previous record time of 2:01:39 he set in the German capital in 2018.

Kipchoge, 37 and a two-time Olympic champion, earned his 15th win in 17 career marathons to bolster his claim as the greatest runner in history over 26.2 miles.

His pacing was not ideal. Kipchoge slowed in the final miles, running 61:18 for the second half after going out in an unprecedented 59:51 for the first 13.1 miles. He still won by 4:49 over Kenyan Mark Korir.

“I was planning to go through it [the halfway mark] 60:50, 60:40,” Kipchoge said. “My legs were running actually very fast. I thought, let me just try to run two hours flat, but all in all, I am happy with the performance.

“We went too fast [in the first half]. It takes energy from the muscles. … There’s still more in my legs [to possibly lower the record again].”

MORE: Berlin Marathon Results

Ethiopian Tigist Assefa won the women’s race in 2:15:37, the third-fastest time in history for somebody who ran one prior marathon in 2:34:01. Only Brigid Kosgei (2:14:14 in Chicago in 2019) and Paula Radcliffe (2:15:25 in London in 2003) have gone faster.

American record holder Keira D’Amato, who entered as the top seed, was sixth in 2:21:48. D’Amato, who went nearly a decade between competitive races after college, owns the American record of 2:19:12 and now also the 10th-best time in U.S. history.

“Today wasn’t my best day ever, but it was the best I could do today,” she said in a text message, according to Race Results Weekly, adding that she briefly stopped and walked late in the race.

The last eight instances the men’s marathon world record has been broken, it has come on the pancake-flat roads of Berlin. It began in 2003, when Kenyan Paul Tergat became the first man to break 2:05.

The world record was 2:02:57 — set by Kenyan Dennis Kimetto in 2014 — until Kipchoge broke it for the first time four years ago.

The following year, Kipchoge became the first person to cover 26.2 miles in under two hours, clocking 1:59:40 in a non-record-eligible showcase rather than a race.

Kipchoge’s focus going forward is trying to become the first runner to win three Olympic marathon titles in Paris in 2024. He also wants to win all six annual World Marathon Majors. He’s checked off four of them, only missing Boston (run in April) and New York City (run every November).

Kipchoge grew up on a farm in Kapsabet in Kenya’s Rift Valley, often hauling by bike several gallons of the family’s milk to sell at the local market. Raised by a nursery school teacher, he ran more than three miles to and from school. He saved for five months to get his first pair of running shoes.

At 18, he upset legends Hicham El Guerrouj and Kenenisa Bekele to win the 2003 World 5000m title on the track. He won Olympic 5000m medals (bronze in 2004 and silver in 2008), then moved to the marathon after failing to make the 2012 Olympic team on the track.

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2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup schedule, results

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The U.S. goes for its fourth consecutive title at the FIBA World Cup in Sydney — and eighth global gold in a row overall when including the Olympics.

A’ja Wilson, a two-time WNBA MVP, and Breanna Stewart, the Tokyo Olympic MVP, headline a U.S. roster that, for the first time since 2000, includes neither Sue Bird (retired) nor Diana Taurasi (injured).

The new-look team includes nobody over the age of 30 for the first time since 1994, before the U.S. began its dynasty at the 1996 Atlanta Games. The Americans have won 52 consecutive games between worlds and the Olympics dating to the 2006 Worlds bronze-medal game.

The field also includes host Australia, the U.S.’ former primary rival, and Olympic silver medalist Japan.

Nigeria, which played the U.S. the closest of any foe in Tokyo (losing by nine points), isn’t present after its federation withdrew the team over governance issues. Spain, ranked second in the world, failed to qualify.

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2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup Schedule

Date Time (ET) Game Round
Wed., Sept. 21 8:30 p.m. Puerto Rico 82, Bosnia and Herzegovina 58 Group A
9:30 p.m. USA 87, Belgium 72 Group A
11 p.m. Canada 67, Serbia 60 Group B
Thurs., Sept. 22 12 a.m. Japan 89, Mali 56 Group B
3:30 a.m. China 107, South Korea 44 Group A
6:30 a.m. France 70, Australia 57 Group B
8:30 p.m. USA 106, Puerto Rico 42 Group A
10 p.m. Serbia 69, Japan 64 Group B
11 p.m. Belgium 84, South Korea 61 Group A
Fri., Sept. 23 12:30 a.m. China 98, Bosnia and Herzegovina 51 Group A
4 a.m. Canada 59, France 45 Group B
6:30 a.m. Australia 118, Mali 58 Group B
Sat., Sept. 24 12:30 a.m. USA 77, China 63 Group A
4 a.m. South Korea 99, Bosnia and Herzegovina 66 Group A
6:30 a.m. Belgium 68, Puerto Rico 65 Group A
Sun., Sept. 25 12:30 a.m. France 74, Mali 59 Group B
4 a.m. Australia 69, Serbia 54 Group B
6:30 a.m. Canada 70, Japan 56 Group B
9:30 p.m. Belgium vs. Bosnia and Herzegovina Group A
11:30 p.m. Mali vs. Serbia Group B
Mon., Sept. 26 12 a.m. USA vs. South Korea Group A
2 a.m. France vs. Japan Group B
3:30 a.m. China vs. Puerto Rico Group A
6:30 a.m. Australia vs. Canada Group B
9:30 p.m. Puerto Rico vs. South Korea Group A
11:30 p.m. Belgium vs. China Group A
Tues., Sept. 27 12 a.m. USA vs. Bosnia and Herzegovina Group A
2 a.m. Canada vs. Mali Group B
3:30 a.m. France vs. Serbia Group B
6:30 a.m. Australia vs. Japan Group B
Wed., Sept. 28 10 p.m. Quarterfinal
Thurs., Sept. 29 12:30 a.m. Quarterfinal
4 a.m. Quarterfinal
6:30 a.m. Quarterfinal
Fri., Sept. 30 3 .m. Semifinal
5:30 a.m. Semifinal
11 p.m. Third-Place Game
Sat., Oct. 1 2 a.m. Final