Sydney McLaughlin crushed the 400m hurdles world record to win the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials and supplant now former record holder Dalilah Muhammad as the gold-medal favorite.
On the final night of Trials, world champion Noah Lyles won the 200m, while 17-year-old Erriyon Knighton was third. Knighton, who turned pro in January, is set to become the youngest U.S. male track and field Olympian since miler Jim Ryun in 1964.
Athing Mu, 19, ran the second-fastest women’s 800m in U.S. history. Rio gold medalist Matthew Centrowitz qualified in the 1500m, but 2016 Olympic long jump champ Jeff Henderson failed to qualify.
McLaughlin clocked 51.90 seconds, bettering Rio gold medalist Muhammad’s previous record of 52.16 from the 2019 World Championships. McLaughlin finished second at those worlds in 52.23, making her the second-fastest woman in history at the time.
“I will cherish this for the rest of my life,” said McLaughlin, who was eliminated in the semifinals in Rio (with a cold) at age 17 as the youngest American to compete in track and field at an Olympics since 1972.
McLaughlin covered her mouth and crouched after crossing the finish line and seeing the time inside Hayward Field. Muhammad, who ran in an adjacent lane, was the first athlete to shake her hand and hug her.
“There’s no animosity or hard feelings,” McLaughlin said. “We have to have each other to have these world records.”
ON HER TURF: Step by step to McLaughlin’s world record
In February, McLaughlin announced she changed coaches from 2004 Olympic 100m hurdles champion Joanna Hayes to Bobby Kersee. Kersee, the husband of Jackie Joyner-Kersee, has coached his wife, plus Florence Griffith Joyner and, since 2005, Allyson Felix.
McLaughlin prepared differently this season, doing five 100m hurdles races before her first 400m hurdles three weeks before Trials.
“It’s truly just faith and trusting the process,” McLaughlin told Lewis Johnson on NBCSN. “I’m really happy I chose to go with [Kersee].”
Muhammad, who dealt with a COVID infection and a hamstring injury this year, finished second in 52.42 to make the team on Sunday. As of two years ago, it would have tied the second-fastest time in history. Now it’s the joint sixth-fastest time ever and Muhammad’s third best.
Muhammad, who was so set back this spring that she considered making Trials her first meet of the season, said she saw McLaughlin’s world record coming.
“Makes it exciting for fans, but nerve-racking for me,” she said. “I think there’s more in store for me, and Tokyo will be good for me.”
Anna Cockrell, who won the NCAA 100m hurdles and 400m hurdles titles earlier this month, was third in 53.70.
The evening session was pushed back several hours due to extreme heat (temperatures approaching 110 degrees and nearly 150 degrees on the track).
Heptathlete Tayliah Brooks was one of two athletes wheeled off the track in a chair in the afternoon, according to the NBC broadcast. Brooks was taken via ambulance to a hospital and deemed OK. She was in fourth place after five events and did not start the sixth event, the javelin, which was completed in the afternoon before the evening session was delayed.
Brooks returned to Hayward Field but was not medically cleared to compete after a medical personnel discussion, according to the broadcast. USA Track and Field announced that she withdrew.
Annie Kunz won the heptathlon with 6,703 points, improving her personal best by 550 points to easily get the Olympic standard. She’s joined on the team by Rio Olympian Kendell Williams and Erica Bougard. Kunz is ranked first in the world this year, and her total would have taken silver at 2019 Worlds.
Lyles took the 200m, one week after not making the team in the 100m. He clocked 19.74 seconds (fastest in the world this year), prevailing by .04 over Kenny Bednarek. Knighton, who broke Usain Bolt‘s U18 record last month and Bolt’s U20 world record on Saturday, lowered his personal best again to 19.84.
No U.S. man or woman made the team in both the 100m and the 200m, marking the first time none will double at an Olympics since 1928, according to Olympedia.org.
Mu won the 800m in the second-fastest time in American history, 1:56.07. Only Ajee’ Wilson has gone faster (1:55.61). Wilson took third, just behind Raevyn Rogers, to make the team. Rogers and Wilson took silver and bronze at the 2019 Worlds.
Mu, who turned pro after her freshman season at Texas A&M, ran the fastest time in the world since the start of 2019, among athletes who will be in Tokyo, to assume Olympic favorite status.
Two-time Olympic champion Caster Semenya of South Africa has gone faster, but she will not race the 800m in Tokyo (and perhaps not any event) due to a new rule requiring her and other runners to reduce her testosterone to compete in the event. Semenya refuses to do so and moved up to the 5000m, where she doesn’t have to reduce testosterone, but hasn’t run an Olympic qualifying time.
Centrowitz made his third Olympics by placing second in the 1500m. Centrowitz was run down by rising Oregon junior Cole Hocker in the final straight. Hocker does not have the Olympic standard, but could get in via world ranking later this week. Another collegian, Notre Dame’s Yared Nuguse, took third.
Henderson failed to make the long jump team, placing sixth. Instead, JuVaughn Harrison is set to become the first U.S. man to compete in the high jump and long jump at the same Olympics since Jim Thorpe in 1912, according to Olympedia. Harrison won both events Sunday and is ranked second in the world in both.
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