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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Bernard Lagat commits to Olympic marathon trials, eyes age record

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Bernard Lagat, a 44-year-old, five-time Olympian, reportedly said he will race the Olympic marathon trials on Feb. 29 in a bid to break his own record as the oldest U.S. Olympic runner.

“I feel like I can still improve,” Lagat said, according to Runner’s World. “I’m going to give it my best.”

Lagat, a two-time Olympic 1500m medalist, moved to the marathon after becoming the oldest U.S. Olympic runner in history at the Rio Games, placing fifth in the 5000m.

He clocked 2:17:20 in his 26.2-mile debut at the 2018 New York City Marathon. He lowered it to 2:12:10 at the Gold Coast Marathon in Australia on July 7 but did not previously commit to entering the trials.

If Lagat finishes in the top three at the marathon trials, he is in line to become the third-oldest U.S. Olympic track and field athlete in history. The oldest are race walker John Deni (49 years old in 1952) and hammer thrower Matt McGrath (48 years old in 1924), according to the OlyMADMen.

Lagat ranks outside the top 20 among U.S. marathoners in this Olympic cycle. The fastest are Galen Rupp (2:06:07), Leonard Korir (2:07:56, from Sunday’s Amsterdam Marathon) and Scott Fauble (2:09:09).

No American has competed in six Olympics in track and field. Lagat’s first two Olympic appearances were for Kenya.

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Natalie Geisenberger, Olympic luge champion, will not race this season

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For the first time in eight years, there will be a new World Cup women’s luge champion.

Germany’s Natalie Geisenberger — the seven-time defending champion and two-time defending Olympic singles gold medalist — announced that she isn’t sliding this season because she and her husband are expecting their first child in April.

“Our happiness is on the way,” Geisenberger said on her Facebook page.

Geisenberger plans to return next season and still has hopes to compete at the 2022 Beijing Olympics, where she could match fellow German great Georg Hackl’s feat of winning three consecutive singles golds.

With Geisenberger not sliding this season, the top returning women from last year’s World Cup standings now are Julia Taubitz of Germany and Summer Britcher of the U.S. — second and third, respectively, in 2018-19.

Geisenberger has a luge record-tying four Olympic golds in all, being part of Germany’s victories in the team relays in Sochi in 2014 and Pyeongchang in 2018 as well.

Her 49 World Cup singles wins are another record, and she’s one of two sliders to win seven consecutive World Cup titles — Austria’s Markus Prock took the men’s championships each year from 1990-91 through 1996-97.

Geisenberger’s break from sliding only adds to how the World Cup standings — and the German roster — will look very different this season. Dajana Eitberger, who was fourth in last season’s World Cup standings, is also pregnant and expecting a baby in February. And Tatjana Huefner, who was sixth overall last season, has retired.

Huefner won five consecutive World Cup titles before Geisenberger took over and began her seven-year streak of championships. Geisenberger earned medals 11 times in 12 singles races last year — six golds, four silvers and one bronze.

“We are so happy for you even though we will miss you this season!” two-time Olympic singles gold medalist Felix Loch of Germany wrote in a message to Geisenberger on Instagram.

Geisenberger has been in the top three of the World Cup standings in 12 consecutive seasons. She was third in 2007-08, finished second in each of the next four seasons, and then began her title streak in 2012-13.

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MORE: U.S. luge star adds doubles after Olympic singles medal