Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone wants to expand to flat 400m

Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
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Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone, who broke the 400m hurdles world record four times in the last two years, wants to add the 400m without hurdles to her program.

“I don’t think we’re going to give up the 400m hurdles just yet, but we definitely want to expand to the 400m flat and just see what’s possible there,” McLaughlin-Levrone told NBC Sports in a recent interview.

McLaughlin-Levrone checked off every major box in the 400m hurdles by age 23: Olympic gold medal, world title and world record. After lowering the record to 50.68 seconds at July’s world championships, she was asked about possibly adding or changing events for the run-up to the Paris Games.

Back then, McLaughlin-Levrone said she and coach Bobby Kersee would decide after the season if she will continue to race strictly the 400m hurdles individually at major meets. Her season ended in early August.

Even before the world championships, Kersee told NBC Sports’ Ato Boldon that McLaughlin-Levrone will eventually turn to the flat 400m and chase that 37-year-old world record, the longest-standing in any men’s or women’s sprint event.

Now, McLaughlin-Levrone is voicing something similar.

“That world record has stood for so long, and no one’s come even close to it,” she said. “So we definitely want to be able to try that and see what we can do there as well.”

McLaughlin-Levrone showed her flat potential in the 4x400m relay at worlds. Her split — 47.91 seconds — made her the seventh-fastest relay performer in history and second-fastest in the last 33 years behind Allyson Felix.

McLaughlin-Levrone has never run the individual 400m at a senior championship meet. Her personal best is 50.07 seconds from 2018, when she was a freshman at the University of Kentucky.

It would not be a surprise if McLaughlin-Levrone enters the flat 400m at next season’s USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships, given her comments and that she has a bye in the 400m hurdles into next summer’s world championships as reigning champion.

At next summer’s world championships, the women’s 400m hurdles first round heats start 2 hours and 20 minutes before the women’s 400m semifinals. Top-level pros rarely race multiple times in one session in a distance longer than 200 meters at any meet.

Only twice has an athlete won a medal in both the flat 400m and 400m hurdles at one Olympics. Americans Harry Hillman and Frank Waller went one-two in both events and at the 1904 St. Louis Games, where the fields were small and largely American. Only five women have competed in both events at one Olympics, according to Olympedia.org.

The Olympic schedule is accommodating as ever for a possible women’s 400m-400m hurdles double in 2024. For the first time in Olympic history, none of the rounds of those races take place on the same day at the Games. But doing both through the finals would still be a challenge: racing six consecutive days at the Olympics (and a seventh day at the end if adding the 4x400m relay).

This past season, Bahamian Shaunae Miller-Uibo won the world title in the flat 400m in 49.11 seconds. The American record is 48.70, set by 2012 Olympic champion Sanya Richards-Ross in 2006.

The world record is 47.60, set by East German Marita Koch in 1985. Koch was among many East German athletes whose record-breaking performances in the 1970s and ’80s generated suspicion (and later records of administered doses) of illegal performance-enhancing drugs. Koch never tested positive and denied ever using PEDs, according to Olympedia.

No woman has run the individual 400m within a half-second of Koch’s world record time since she registered it.

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Aleksander Aamodt Kilde wins Beaver Creek downhill

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BEAVER CREEK, Colo. — Norway’s Aleksander Aamodt Kilde won his second straight World Cup downhill race to start the season, despite feeling under the weather.

Although dealing with an illness all week in training, Kilde powered through the challenging Birds of Prey course Saturday in a time of 1 minute, 42.09 seconds. It was enough to hold off Marco Odermatt of Switzerland by 0.06 seconds. James Crawford of Canada was third to earn his second career World Cup podium finish.

Kilde also won the opening downhill last weekend in Lake Louise, Alberta.

“It’s been a tough week,” Kilde said after the race. “I caught the flu in Lake Louise after a very, very nice weekend. It really hit me hard. Then I got a couple of days to rest and take it easy. … I felt OK. Still feeling it a little bit in my system.”

The Beaver Creek crew members had the course in solid shape a day after a downhill race was canceled due to high wind and snowfall.

ALPINE SKIING: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Kilde reached speeds around 75 mph in picking up his eighth World Cup downhill victory. That tied him with Kjetil Jansrud for the third-most downhill wins in the World Cup discipline among Norwegian men. The total trails only Aksel Lund Svindal (14) and Lasse Kjus (10).

“I found a really, really good set-up with my equipment and also with my skiing,” Kilde explained. “I believe in myself. I trust in myself. I have a good game plan. When I stand on the start, I don’t dwell on anything. I know that this plan is what I do and when I do that it’s going to be fast.”

Odermatt has been on the podium in all four World Cup races this season as he tries to defend his overall World Cup title. The 25-year-old finished third in the opening downhill of the season last weekend. He’s also won a giant slalom race and a super-G.

Ryan Cochran-Siegle wound up in seventh place for the top American finish. He was ninth in the downhill in Lake Louise.

“It’s been solid,” Cochran-Siegle said of his strides in the discipline. “A couple of little things here and there that pushed me off that top three. You have to ski with a lot of intensity and ski without abandon, in a sense. Today was a good step.”

Switzerland’s Beat Feuz, who won the Olympic downhill gold medal at the Beijing Games last February, tied for ninth.

The Beaver Creek stop on the circuit comes to a close Sunday with a super-G race. Odermatt will be the favorite after holding off Kilde in the opening super-G last weekend.

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Summer McIntosh, Canadian teen swimmer, caps record year with another historic time

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Summer McIntosh swam the fourth-fastest 400m individual medley in history on Friday, capping a year that already included world titles, Commonwealth Games titles and a victory over Katie Ledecky.

McIntosh, a 16-year-old Canadian whose mom swam at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, won the 400m IM in 4 minutes, 28.61 seconds at the U.S. Open in Greensboro, N.C. She prevailed by a Ledecky-like 13.24 seconds, breaking her own national record that was previously the fourth-fastest time in history.

“It’s still pretty early in the season, so I didn’t really know what to expect going into it,” she said on Peacock.

The only two women who ever went faster in the event known as the decathlon of swimming are Olympic gold medalists: Hungary’s Katinka Hosszu (world record 4:26.36 and 4:28.58) and China’s Ye Shiwen (4:28.43).

McIntosh has come a long way in a short time. Three years ago, she put all her eggs in the 1500m freestyle basket, thinking it was her best shot to merely qualify for the Tokyo Games in 2020. The one-year Olympic postponement was a blessing.

The rapidly improving McIntosh swam three individual events in Tokyo with a top finish of fourth in the 400m free, just missing becoming the youngest swimming medalist since 1996. She then told her coach she wanted to become an IMer.

At this past June’s world championships, McIntosh won two of the most grueling events — 400m IM and 200m butterfly — to become the youngest individual world champion since 2011. She also took silver to Ledecky in the 400m free, an event in which she later beat Ledecky in a short-course meet (25-meter pool rather than the 50-meter pool used for the Olympics).

A month after worlds, McIntosh swept the IMs at the Commonwealth Games, where she broke more world junior records and again took second in the 400m free (this time to Olympic champ and world record holder Ariarne Titmus of Australia).

McIntosh, who turned professional last year, now trains full-time in Sarasota, Florida, where she rents a house with her mom, Jill Horstead, who was ninth in the 200m fly at the 1984 Olympics (McIntosh, whose passions include the Kardashians and plants from Target, has seen video of her mom winning the B final at those Games). They’re a three-hour drive down Interstate 75 from Ledecky’s base in Gainesville.

Also Friday, Erin Gemmell celebrated her 18th birthday by nearly becoming the first American to beat Ledecky in a 200m freestyle in nearly nine years. Ledecky won by 42 hundredths of a second in 1:56.74 and said she had an off-day while also praising Gemmell, the daughter of her former coach.

NBC airs U.S. Open highlights on Dec. 10 at 4:30 p.m. ET.

U.S. OPEN SWIMMING: Full Results

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