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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Olympic flame to travel by sea for Paris 2024, welcomed by armada

Paris 2024 Olympic Torch Relay Marseille
Paris 2024
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The Olympic flame will travel from Athens to Marseille by ship in spring 2024 to begin the France portion of the torch relay that ends in Paris on July 26, 2024.

The torch relay always begins in the ancient Olympic site of Olympia, Greece, where the sun’s rays light the flame. It will be passed by torch until it reaches Athens.

It will then cross the Mediterranean Sea aboard the Belem, a three-masted ship, “reminiscent of a true Homeric epic,” according to Paris 2024. It will arrive at the Old Port of Marseille, welcomed by an armada of boats.

Marseille is a former Greek colony and the oldest city in France. It will host sailing and some soccer matches during the Paris Olympics.

The full 2024 Olympic torch relay route will be unveiled in May.

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Paris 2024 Olympic Torch Relay Marseille
Paris 2024

Mikaela Shiffrin heads to world championships with medal records in sight

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Before Mikaela Shiffrin can hold the World Cup wins record, she can become the most decorated Alpine skier in modern world championships history.

Shiffrin takes a respite from World Cup pursuits for the biennial world championships in France. She is expected to race at least four times, beginning with Monday’s combined.

Shiffrin has a tour-leading 11 World Cup victories in 23 starts this season, her best since her record 17-win 2018-19 campaign, but world championships do not count toward the World Cup.

Shiffrin remains one career victory behind Swede Ingemar Stenmark‘s record 86 World Cup wins until at least her next World Cup start in March.

Shiffrin has been more successful at worlds than at the Olympics and even on the World Cup. She has 11 medals in 13 world championships races dating to her 2013 debut, including making the podium in each of her last 10 events.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

She enters worlds one shy of the modern, post-World War II individual records for total medals (Norway’s Kjetil Andre Aamodt won 12) and gold medals (Austrian Toni Sailer, Frenchwoman Marielle Goitschel and Swede Anja Pärson won seven).

Worlds take place exactly one year after Shiffrin missed the medals in all of her Olympic races, but that’s not motivating her.

“If I learned anything last year, it’s that these big events, they can go amazing, and they can go terrible, and you’re going to survive no matter what,” she said after her most recent World Cup last Sunday. “So I kind of don’t care.”

Shiffrin ranks No. 1 in the world this season in the giant slalom (Feb. 16 at worlds) and slalom (Feb. 18).

This year’s combined is one run of super-G coupled with one run of slalom (rather than one downhill and one slalom), which also plays to her strengths. She won that event, with that format, at the last worlds in 2021. The combined isn’t contested on the World Cup, so it’s harder to project favorites.

Shiffrin is also a medal contender in the super-G (Feb. 8), despite starting just two of five World Cup super-Gs this season (winning one of them).

She is not planning to race the downhill (Feb. 11), which she often skips on the World Cup and has never contested at a worlds. Nor is she expected for the individual parallel (Feb. 15), a discipline she hasn’t raced in three years in part due to the strain it puts on her back with the format being several runs for the medalists.

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