Dalilah Muhammad has another world record, plus a bona fide rival

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Dalilah Muhammad didn’t know if she had won the race, let alone bettered her own world record. She did both.

Muhammad won the marquee head-to-head of the world track and field championships in Doha on Friday, a 400m hurdles duel with fellow American Sydney McLaughlin that lived up to the hype.

Muhammad clocked 52.16 seconds, taking .04 off her time from the USATF Outdoor Championships on July 28, when she lowered a 15-year-old world record. McLaughlin was right on her tail, going 52.23 to become the second-fastest woman in history.

“I was just looking to see who won the race, and then I noticed when they said world record that I had broke it,” said Muhammad, who added her first world title to her Rio Olympic gold medal. “I did not expect to break the world record.”

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Jamaican Rushell Clayton took the bronze, but she was 1.5 seconds behind the main attractions. The Muhammad-McLaughlin rivalry is the biggest story in U.S. female sprinting going into the Tokyo Games given a lack of Olympic gold-medal contenders in the 100m, 200m and 400m.

Muhammad, 29, emerged from being unsponsored out of college after getting eliminated in the 2012 Olympic trials first round to become one of the greatest sprinters in history.

McLaughlin, who in Rio became the youngest U.S. track and field athlete to compete at an Olympics in 44 years, continued her unprecedented ascent less than two months after turning 20. In her first global championship final, she nearly became the youngest female world champion since Caster Semenya in 2009.

“It’s the rookie and the vet,” said McLaughlin, who like Muhammad trains in Southern California but with a different coach. “Constantly being able to race against her and learn and see what it’s like to break world records. There’s not a lot of communication, but there’s a lot of watching.”

Especially at the end of Friday’s final. McLaughlin said she stuttered over the eighth of 10 hurdles. Still, Muhammad sensed McLaughlin closing in on her at the ninth.

“I wanted to make everyone in the race uncomfortable,” said Muhammad, who suffered a concussion in a practice fall two weeks before her July world record. “I had a lot of adrenaline pumping this race. I felt a little bit more determined and just kind of focused [than the previous world-record race]. And, surprisingly, it hurt a little bit more.”

McLaughlin said she was satisfied with silver, given she lowered her personal best by .52 of a second. She finishes the season, her first as a pro after one NCAA season at Kentucky, 2-2 in direct matchups with Muhammad.

“Sometimes I treat myself like I’ve been here for a while, and I would like to say that I have, but I think every day is a learning experience,” she told Lewis Johnson on Olympic Channel. “Hopefully I can take this and put it towards next year and try and do better.”

In other finals, Kenyan Conseslus Kipruto won the 3000m steeplechase by .01 over Ethiopian Lamecha Girma after eight minutes of racing. More on Kipruto extending the most dominant streak in the sport here.

Qatar’s Mutaz Barshim sent the crowd into pandemonium by defending his world title in the high jump, clearing 2.37 meters.

Steven Gardiner of the Bahamas kept the U.S. from sweeping the men’s 100m, 200m and 400m at a worlds for the first time since 2007, taking the 400m in 43.48 to make him the sixth-fastest man in history. Pre-race favorite Fred Kerley of the U.S. took bronze in 44.17, trailing surprise silver medalist Anthony Zambrano of Colombia.

In Friday semifinals, Olympic champion Matthew Centrowitz needed to qualify into the final on time after placing sixth in his 1500m heat.

Centrowitz, who owns world silver and bronze medals, will look to upset Kenyan Timothy Cheruiyot on Sunday. Cheruiyot, who won his semifinal, is 16-3 at 1500m or the mile over the last two years.

Both U.S. 4x100m relays advanced to Saturday finals, though the men nearly botched yet another handoff. Mike Rodgers‘ pass to anchor Cravon Gillespie was dangerously close to being out of the zone.

Gillespie slowed for the exchange, and the U.S. ended up third in the heat. The U.S. men last won an Olympic or world 4x100m in 2007.

Canada and Italy later protested for the U.S. to be disqualified, saying that exchange was out of the zone, but they were denied.

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Tommy Ford ends U.S. men’s World Cup drought at Beaver Creek

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Tommy Ford earned his first World Cup win at age 30 and ended the U.S. men’s longest victory and podium droughts in two decades.

Ford won the giant slalom in Beaver Creek, Colo., on Sunday, the last North American race on tour this season. He prevailed by eight tenths of a second combining times over two runs.

“It doesn’t beat doing it here. I’ve been working hard,” Ford, in his 86th World Cup start dating to 2009, said on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA. “No secret, just kept it simple and really trusted what I was doing.”

Norwegians Henrik Kristoffersen and Leif Kristian Nestvold-Haugen were second and third. American Ted Ligety, fourth after the opening run, finished 11th.

Full results are here.

Ford became the first U.S. man to win a World Cup since Travis Ganong took a downhill on Jan. 27, 2017. He also became the first U.S. male podium finisher since Ligety in January 2018. Both were the longest droughts for the program since the late 1990s.

Ford, a 2010 and 2018 Olympian who missed the 2014 Olympics due to a broken femur, had been working toward this moment.

He finished a World Cup career-high fourth at the season-opening giant slalom in Soelden, Austria, on Oct. 27. Last season, the Oregon native and former Dartmouth student had a pair of fifths.

The men’s World Cup moves to Val d’Isere, France, next weekend for a giant slalom and slalom.

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Katie Ledecky wins race by 30 seconds, takes back No. 1 ranking

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In her last race of the year, Katie Ledecky ensured she would finish 2019 as the world’s fastest 1500m freestyler.

Ledecky clocked 15:35.98 at the U.S. Open in Atlanta, winning the longest event on the Olympic pool program by 29.97 seconds. Typical for Ledecky, who owns the nine fastest times in history. This one came in at No. 8. Full meet results are here.

Ledecky scratched the 1500m free final at the summer world championships due to illness. Italian Simona Quadarella went on to win that title in 15:40.89, which was the world’s fastest time this year until Saturday night.

“I didn’t have time on my mind at all today. I just wanted to have a consistent swim,” Ledecky, undefeated in 1500m free finals for nine years, said on NBCSN. “That’s probably the best mile that I’ve had in a while.”

The women’s 1500m freestyle debuts at the Olympics in Tokyo. Ledecky is expected to add that to her Rio Olympic individual lineup of 200m, 400m and 800m frees, assuming she is top two in each event at the June Olympic trials.

In other events Saturday, Erika Brown handed Simone Manuel a rare defeat in the 100m freestyle. Brown, a University of Tennessee senior, clocked 53.42 and lowered her personal best by .71 between prelims and the final. Brown moved from sixth to fourth in the U.S. rankings this year, upping her stock as a contender to make the Olympic 4x100m free relay pool via a top-six finish at trials.

Brown previously lowered her personal best in the 50m free on Thursday. She ranks third in the U.S. this year in that event.

Emily Escobedo dealt Lilly King a rare domestic defeat in the 200m breaststroke. Escobedo lowered her personal best by .87 and clocked 2:22.00, moving to seventh fastest in the world this year and remaining fourth among Americans.

In the men’s 200m breast, Olympic champion Dmitriy Balandin of Kazakhstan was beaten by Cody Miller, the Olympic 100m breast silver medalist. Both were slower than their best times this year.

The next significant swim meet is a Tyr Pro Series stop in Knoxville, Tenn., from Jan. 16-19.

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