Dalilah Muhammad on history in 2019: ‘I put it out of mind I was the world-record holder’

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After arriving in Doha last September, Dalilah Muhammad told her coach that the world track and field championships would produce fast times. Even if she wasn’t necessarily thinking of herself.

“I had to just put it out of my mind that I was the world-record holder,” Muhammad said in a recent watchback with NBC Sports track and field commentator Leigh Diffey.

She just wanted to win. Time didn’t matter.

Muhammad eyed a complete set of titles in the 400m hurdles. She won the Olympics in 2016. She became the world-record holder at the USATF Outdoor Championships in July 2019, two weeks after suffering a concussion in a training fall (without hurdles).

All that was lacking: a biennial world championship.

The Khalifa International Stadium track felt fast to Muhammad. The conditions, perfect, thanks to an air conditioning system. Though Muhammad said it was, at least at first, difficult for her body to adjust from the temperatures outside the stadium, eclipsing 100 degrees.

She was third-fastest in the preliminary heats and second-fastest in the semifinals, slower than 20-year-old rival Sydney McLaughlin in both rounds.

Then came the final and arguably the most anticipated head-to-head of the meet. It delivered.

Both women ran faster than the previous 15-year-old world record that Muhammad broke at nationals.

Muhammad clocked 52.16, lowering her record from 52.20. McLaughlin registered 52.23, her dash off the last hurdle not quite enough to reel in Muhammad.

Just like at nationals, Muhammad needed somebody to tell her that she ran the fastest time 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,” she said in Doha. “I did not expect to break the world record.”

For the first time since the 1992 Barcelona Games, the U.S. goes into an Olympics without any reigning world champions in the women’s flat sprints. That means added attention on Muhammad and McLaughlin over the next year.

“It’s the rookie and the vet,” McLaughlin, who like Muhammad trains in Southern California but with a different coach, said in Doha. “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.”

MORE: Cross-country could be added to 2024 Olympics

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Gregorio Paltrinieri swims second-fastest 1500m freestyle in history

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Olympic champion Gregorio Paltrinieri swam the second-fastest 1500m freestyle in history, clocking 14:33.10 in his native Italy on Thursday.

Paltrinieri, 25, missed Chinese Sun Yang‘s world record from the 2012 Olympics by 2.08 seconds.

The Italian now owns the second- and third-fastest times in history, including his 14:34.10 from the 2016 European Championships, also held at the 2012 Olympic pool in London.

Paltrinieri is a versatile distance swimmer. At last year’s world championships, he finished sixth in the open-water 10km to qualify for the Olympics, then won the 800m free in the pool in a European record time and finished with 1500m bronze, just missing a third straight world title in that event.

German Florian Wellbrock won the 1500m in 14:36.54 at worlds, with Paltrinieri finishing 2.21 seconds back.

Sun, 28, was in February banned eight years stemming from destroying a drug-test sample with a hammer in September 2018. Sun, who focused more on the 200m and 400m frees in recent years, did not race the 1500m at the 2017 or 2019 Worlds.

Top-level swim meets in the U.S. are scheduled to resume in November with the Tyr Pro Series.

MORE: Michael Phelps qualifies for first Olympics at age 15

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Bianca Andreescu to miss U.S. Open

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Bianca Andreescu withdrew from the U.S. Open, citing “unforeseen challenges, including the Covid pandemic” compromising her ability to prepare to defend her Grand Slam title.

“I have taken this step in order to focus on my match fitness and ensure that I return ready to play at my highest level,” Andreescu, a 20-year-old Canadian, posted on social media. “The US Open victory last year has been the high point of my career thus far and I will miss not being there. However, I realize that the unforeseen challenges, including the Covid pandemic, have compromised my ability to prepare and compete to the degree necessary to play at my highest level.”

Andreescu’s absence means the U.S. Open, the first Grand Slam tournament since tennis resumed amid the coronavirus pandemic, will be without both 2019 male and female singles champions.

Rafael Nadal previously announced he would not defend his title, saying he would rather not travel given the global situation. Roger Federer is also out after knee surgery. Women’s No. 1 Ash Barty didn’t enter, either, citing travel concerns.

Last year, Andreescu made her U.S. Open title run as the 15th seed, sweeping Serena Williams in the final. Ranked 208th a year earlier, she became the first player born in the 2000s to win a Slam and the first teen Slam winner since Maria Sharapova at the 2006 U.S. Open.

Andreescu then missed the Australian Open in January due to rehab from a knee injury that forced her to retire during a match at the WTA Finals on Oct. 30. She also missed the French Open and Wimbledon in 2019 following a rotator cuff tear.

MORE: Serena Williams, reclusive amid pandemic, returns to tennis competition

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