Dalilah Muhammad, Sydney McLaughlin take 400m hurdles rivalry to world champs final

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Dalilah Muhammad, the Olympic champion and new world-record holder in the 400m hurdles, keeps an eye on her younger countrywoman, Sydney McLaughlin, who makes her global championships final debut on Friday.

“I’ve started kind of from the bottom, and I’ve really worked my way up,” Muhammad said before the world championships in Doha, “and I think Sydney’s kind of been at the top of her game from the very beginning of her career. I can definitely say that’s our stories. Our paths have definitely been different.”

They will intersect at the biggest stage yet on Friday (2:30 p.m. ET, Olympic Channel) in the most anticipated final of the last weekend of the 10-day worlds.

Muhammad and McLaughlin combine for seven of the world’s eight fastest times this year.

Muhammad, 29, broke a 15-year-old world record by winning the USATF Outdoor Championships in 52.20 seconds on July 28. But Muhammad hasn’t broken 53.5 in any of her other races this year, while McLaughlin has done it three times.

McLaughlin, 20 and the world junior record holder, also beat Muhammad in their two other head-to-heads this season on the Diamond League circuit.

Muhammad said shortly after lowering the world record that she didn’t think it would last long at 52.20 (which she ran two weeks after suffering a mild concussion in a training fall). What’s not clear is whether Muhammad will go even faster, or if McLaughlin is capable of it.

“The field is so deep,” Muhammad said, “and I don’t think I’m even at my best with 52.20.”

Muhammad’s world record, and her career, were testaments to perseverance. She ran unsponsored after being eliminated in the 2012 Olympic trials first round and finishing her USC career. Her parents helped support her — mom Nadirah, a child protection specialist in New York City and dad Askia, a Muslim Chaplain for the New York City Department of Correction and an adjunct professor of Islamic Studies at the New York Theological Seminary.

Then in 2013, Muhammad earned the U.S. title, a world silver medal and a Nike contract. After a quad injury and coaching change, she again rebounded, this time to become an Olympic champion in Rio.

“The gold was so far from my mind; that definitely wasn’t the goal going into 2016,” she said. “I just wanted to make it as a 400m hurdler.”

There’s never been doubt about McLaughlin. In 2016, she became the youngest U.S. track and field athlete to compete at an Olympics in 44 years, eliminated in the semifinals at age 17.

She turned pro after her freshman season at Kentucky, signing with Beverly Hills-based WME talent agency, a sign that she wanted to become a star that crosses over beyond track. She’s been impressive enough on the oval.

In 2016, McLaughlin broke 55 seconds for the first time. In 2017, she cracked 54. Last year, she went down to 52.75. She’s still looking for a personal best this season. She may need one on Friday, after posting the fastest times in the first round and the semifinals.

“This season was really great, the way that it progressed,” McLaughlin said. “It wasn’t too up and down. It was really steady. I think it worked, perfect timing for the finals.”

TRACK WORLDS: Results | TV Schedule

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Mikaela Shiffrin heads to world championships with medal records in sight

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Before Mikaela Shiffrin can hold the World Cup wins record, she can become the most decorated Alpine skier in modern world championships history.

Shiffrin takes a respite from World Cup pursuits for the biennial world championships in France. She is expected to race at least four times, beginning with Monday’s combined.

Shiffrin has a tour-leading 11 World Cup victories in 23 starts this season, her best since her record 17-win 2018-19 campaign, but world championships do not count toward the World Cup.

Shiffrin remains one career victory behind Swede Ingemar Stenmark‘s record 86 World Cup wins until at least her next World Cup start in March.

Shiffrin has been more successful at worlds than at the Olympics and even on the World Cup. She has 11 medals in 13 world championships races dating to her 2013 debut, including making the podium in each of her last 10 events.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

She enters worlds one shy of the modern, post-World War II individual records for total medals (Norway’s Kjetil Andre Aamodt won 12) and gold medals (Austrian Toni Sailer, Frenchwoman Marielle Goitschel and Swede Anja Pärson won seven).

Worlds take place exactly one year after Shiffrin missed the medals in all of her Olympic races, but that’s not motivating her.

“If I learned anything last year, it’s that these big events, they can go amazing, and they can go terrible, and you’re going to survive no matter what,” she said after her most recent World Cup last Sunday. “So I kind of don’t care.”

Shiffrin ranks No. 1 in the world this season in the giant slalom (Feb. 16 at worlds) and slalom (Feb. 18).

This year’s combined is one run of super-G coupled with one run of slalom (rather than one downhill and one slalom), which also plays to her strengths. She won that event, with that format, at the last worlds in 2021. The combined isn’t contested on the World Cup, so it’s harder to project favorites.

Shiffrin is also a medal contender in the super-G (Feb. 8), despite starting just two of five World Cup super-Gs this season (winning one of them).

She is not planning to race the downhill (Feb. 11), which she often skips on the World Cup and has never contested at a worlds. Nor is she expected for the individual parallel (Feb. 15), a discipline she hasn’t raced in three years in part due to the strain it puts on her back with the format being several runs for the medalists.

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Lucas Braathen, world’s top male slalom skier, in doubt for world championships

Lucas Braathen
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Norway’s Lucas Braathen, the world’s top male slalom skier this season, is doubtful to compete in the world championships slalom on Feb. 19 after appendix surgery on Tuesday.

“It’s been a tough couple of days fighting after surprisingly finding out about quite an intense infection on my appendix,” Braathen, a 22-year-old soccer convert with a Brazilian mom, posted on social media. “I’ve been through surgery and I’m blessed that it went successfully.”

The Norway Alpine skiing team doctor said Braathen’s recovery will take a few weeks, but there is a small possibility he can make it back for the world championships slalom, which is on the final day of the two-week competition.

Braathen has two slalom wins and one giant slalom win this World Cup season. He will miss Saturday’s slalom in Chamonix, France, the last race before worlds. Countryman Henrik Kristoffersen and Swiss Daniel Yule can overtake him atop the World Cup slalom standings in Chamonix.

Braathen entered last year’s Olympics as the World Cup slalom leader and skied out in the first run at the Games.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

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