Dalilah Muhammad

Dalilah Muhammad breaks 400m hurdles world record after ‘freak’ concussion

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DES MOINES — Dalilah Muhammad came back from a mild concussion to break the 16-year-old world record in the 400m hurdles at the USATF Outdoor Championships on Sunday night. She has a knack for overcoming obstacles — beyond just the 10 barriers on the track — and surprising herself.

“I’m still in shock,” Muhammad said after clocking 52.20 seconds on a wet track, similar to the conditions for her Rio Olympic title.

Muhammad, who took .14 off Yuliya Pechonkina‘s mark from 2003, said she was “kind of shut down” after falling in training two weeks ago. She lost focus while running — without hurdles — and took a “freak” fall, scraping skin.

“Nothing major,” the Queens, N.Y., native said. “Yesterday was like, OK, I’m ready to run again.”

Muhammad moved after hurdle six in Sunday’s final, surging past 2015 World silver medalist Shamier Little to her outside coming around the last curve. (This field was one of the deepest of the four-day meet with four Olympic or world medalists, plus Sydney McLaughlin, the fastest woman in the world in 2018 and, until Sunday, 2019.)

As Muhammad strained for home, she heard the voice of coach Lawrence Johnson in her head, saying, you’ve got to execute that last 40 meters. Drop your arms.

“I was just trying to hold on,” she said.

The celebration didn’t match the enormity of the moment. Muhammad saw her time, clapped her hands and leaned over momentarily before accepting a hug from McLaughlin, who finished second in 52.88 to make her first world team.

“I’ve been kind of hitting that time in practice consistently,” said Muhammad, whose previous personal best was 52.64 from 2017. “I was hoping for it this whole weekend.”

In 2012, Muhammad finished fifth at her last NCAA Championships for USC. Twenty days later, she was sixth in her first-round heat at the Olympic trials, a full six seconds slower than what she ran at Drake Stadium on Sunday.

She stayed in the sport, unsponsored, and in Los Angeles, financially supported by her parents. Her mom, Nadirah, worked as a child protection specialist in New York City. Father Askia served as a Muslim Chaplain for the New York City Department of Correction and an adjunct professor of Islamic Studies at the New York Theological Seminary.

Something clicked under those circumstances in 2013. Muhammad lowered her best time from 56.04 to 53.83 to win the U.S. title. Then she earned world silver, picking up a Nike sponsorship along with it.

But 2014, 2015 and even early 2016 brought more hurdles — a quad injury, “personal problems,” and, four months before the Olympic trials, reportedly changing coaches from Yolanda Demus (mother of now-former American record holder Lashinda Demus) to Johnson, who also coached Olympic 100m hurdles champion Brianna McNeal.

It worked. Muhammad clocked a personal-best 52.88 to win trials. She went to the Olympics owning the fastest time in the world for the year by 1.08 seconds over her next-closest competitor in Rio. She lived up to overwhelming favorite status, taking gold by a comfortable .42.

“The gold was so far from my mind; that definitely wasn’t the goal going into 2016,” she said. “I just wanted to make it as a 400m hurdler.”

Muhammad went even faster to win the 2017 U.S. title — 52.64 — but then hurt her hamstring and finished second to countrywoman Kori Carter at worlds in 53.50.

In 2018, McLaughlin ran 52.75 and turned professional after one season at Kentucky. At 18, McLaughlin said she had designs on the world record, and many believed it was coming.

“Maybe the biggest prodigy in the history of the sport,” NBC Sports analyst Ato Boldon said on Sunday’s broadcast of McLaughlin, who made the Rio team at 16 and was eliminated in the Olympic semifinals as the youngest U.S. track and field competitor since 1972.

McLaughlin has 386,000 Instagram followers. Muhammad eclipsed 26,000 on Sunday night.

“I felt like the underdog in the race,” said Muhammad, who was beaten by McLaughlin in Oslo last month, their first head-to-head in two years. “I think people always kind of root for the underdog.”

USATF OUTDOORS: Full Results

In other events Sunday, Noah Lyles made his first world championships team by winning the 200m in 19.78 seconds. He topped U.S. 100m champion Christian Coleman, who was second in 20.02 to set up a 100m-200m double in Doha. More on Lyles-Coleman here.

Olympic 1500m champion Matthew Centrowitz was upset by mulletted Craig Engels, but Centrowitz still finished second to make his seventh straight Olympic or world team.

Favorites Daniel Roberts, Grant Holloway and Devon Allen went one-two-three in the 110m hurdles to make up that world team. Holloway beat Roberts at the NCAA Championships in 12.98 seconds, fastest in the world this year, then dived across the finish line Sunday to secure his first world spot. Roberts won in 13.23.

Dezerea Bryant won the women’s 200m in 22.47 seconds, while U.S. 100m champion Teahna Daniels missed the world team in this event .02, taking fourth.

Emma Coburn earned her eighth steeplechase title in nine years, even though she did not need to race here because she as a bye into Doha as defending world champion. Coburn is joined on the world team by Courtney Frerichs, who took second, just as she did at 2017 Worlds.

Coburn ranks third in the world this year behind Kenyans Beatrice Chepkoech (world-record holder) and Norah Jeruto.

Olympic 800m bronze medalist Clayton Murphy fought traffic in the last 200 meters to go from fourth to second behind Donavan Brazier and qualify for worlds. Brazier, 22, ranks fifth in the world this year after being eliminated in the semifinals in his world champs debut in 2017.

Ajeé Wilson earned her third straight U.S. 800m title, clocking 1:57.72. She’s a medal favorite at worlds given the absence of Olympic silver and bronze medalists Francine Niyonasaba and Margaret Wambui due to the IAAF’s new testosterone-capping rule. However, two-time Olympic champion Caster Semenya is for the moment eligible while appealing.

Athing Mu, 17, finished fifth in a personal-best 2:01.17.

Lopez Lomong, who won the 10,000m on Thursday, doubled up in the 5000m, but he can’t compete at worlds in the latter because he doesn’t have a fast enough qualifying time. Olympic silver medalist Paul Chelimo, who lost a final sprint to the 2008 Olympic Opening Ceremony flag bearer Lomong by .27, leads the team.

Shelby Houlihan completed her second straight 1500m-5000m double at nationals by kicking to win the longer distance. Houlihan, 11th in Rio in the 5000m, is not expected to race that event at worlds as she focuses on the 1500m, where has become one of the world’s best in the last two years.

In the pole vault, Jenn Suhr, the 2012 Olympic champ ranked No. 1 in the world this year, and Sandi Morris, the 2016 Olympic silver medalist ranked No. 2 in the world this year, both qualified for worlds.

Olympic long jump champion Jeff Henderson appears to have made the world team despite placing fifth because national champion Ja’Mari Ward and fourth-place Jarvis Gotch don’t have a far enough qualifying jump for worlds.

Olympic shot put champion Michelle Carter was beaten by Chase Ealey, who ranks second in the world this year, but both are going to worlds.

Erica Bougard overcame Kendell Williams‘ 66-point lead in the heptathlon in the last event, the 800m, to repeat as national champion.

Bougard’s total, 6,663, ranks third in the world this year behind Olympic champion Nafi Thiam of Belgium and Brit Katarina Johnson-Thompson. The last American to earn a world heptathlon medal was Shelia Burrell in 2001 (bronze).

Jeron Robinson repeated as high jump champion, clearing 2.30 meters to move to joint seventh in the world this year.

The track and field season continues with a Diamond League meet in Birmingham, Great Britain, on Aug. 18.

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Sydney McLaughlin takes on Olympic, world champions; Oslo preview, TV schedule

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For as much as Sydney McLaughlin has accomplished already, there is still much to prove.

The 19-year-old phenom races her most competitive 400m hurdles in two years at a Diamond League meet in Oslo on Thursday (1 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold, and 2 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

“It’s going to be a good experience to see what it’s like to race with high-level competition,” McLaughlin said by phone from Norway, where she will make her Diamond League 400m hurdles debut. “It’s going to become a normal thing. The first one is exciting and a little nerve-racking to get the experience and see what it’s like.”

She takes on 2016 Olympic champion Dalilah Muhammad, 2017 World champion Kori Carter and 2015 World silver medalist Shamier Little in an appetizer for next month’s USATF Outdoor Championships, where the top three finishers qualify for the fall world championships (aside from the already qualified Carter).

In 2016, McLaughlin became the youngest U.S. track and field athlete to compete at an Olympics in 44 years, reaching the semifinals in Rio. Last year, as a freshman at Kentucky, she lowered personal bests in the 200m, 400m and 400m hurdles, all by more than a second, and ran the world’s fastest 400m hurdles of 2018 by .57.

After winning the 2018 NCAA Championships, McLaughlin said that, although she still wanted to see a ton of improvement in her young career, “once it comes together, hopefully the world record will go.”

A year later, McLaughlin said she’s not looking at any time goals this season, her first since turning pro and moving to Southern California to train under 2004 Olympic 100m hurdles champion Joanna Hayes.

“I have my whole career to chase something like that,” McLaughlin said of the world record of 52.34, set by Russian Yuliya Pechonkina in 2003. McLaughlin has studied many races of Lashinda Demus, the American record holder at 52.47, “because she was so aggressive from beginning to end, and she made it look so effortless.”

“This year for me is kind of adjusting to everything, being a professional, being with a new coach, being in a new atmosphere,” she continued. “Everything is brand-new right now.”

McLaughlin will focus on making her first world championships team in one of the U.S.’ strongest events. In the last world championships year, she finished sixth at 2017 Nationals in the fastest 400m hurdles race in history.

Though she was also fourth-fastest in the U.S. in the flat 400m last year, McLaughlin said she hasn’t discussed going for a double this year or next (the 400m and 400m hurdles overlap at worlds this year and also to a lesser extent at the Olympics).

She has never beaten Muhammad, who with Little and Carter took the top three spots at nationals in 2017 to make that world team. This would be the most impressive win of McLaughlin’s life.

Here are the Oslo entry lists. Here’s the schedule of events (all times Eastern):

1 — Women’s High Jump
1:15 — Women’s Shot Put
1:30 — Men’s Pole Vault
2:03 — Women’s 400m Hurdles
2:11 — Men’s 800m
2:16 — Women’s 800m
2:17 — Women’s Triple Jump
2:25 — Men’s 3000m
2:30 — Men’s Javelin
2:47 — Women’s 100m Hurdles
3 — Men’s 100m
3:10 — Women’s 3000m Steeplechase
3:32 — Men’s 400m Hurdles
3:41 — Women’s 200m
3:51 — Men’s Mile

Here are five events to watch:

Women’s 400m Hurdles — 2:03 p.m. ET
A pretty strong argument that Muhammad is the favorite. She’s broken 54 seconds in her last four races dating to last season, all wins, and owns the world’s fastest time this year (53.61) and this Olympic cycle (52.64). McLaughlin boasts a 52.75 from the May 2018 SEC Championships and opened with a 54.14 this season. This is the first international 400m hurdles of McLaughlin’s pro career. It will be the biggest harbinger for nationals next month in Des Moines.

Men’s 3000m — 2:25 p.m. ET
Muktar Edris, who upset Mo Farah to win the last world title at 5000m, takes on two of the three fastest 5000m men from last year, Yomif Kejelcha and Selemon Barega, in an Ethiopian clash. The U.S. sends Ben True, the first American man to win a Diamond League distance race (in 2015), and Drew Hunter, who in 2016 became the eighth U.S. high schooler to break four minutes in the mile. This meet is key for Edris, who hasn’t raced on the top international level yet this year and was 10 seconds behind in the epic Brussels 5000m with Kejelcha and Barega at last season’s Diamond League finals.

Men’s Javelin — 2:30 p.m. ET
Strongest field of the meet? The top four men so far this year. The top five from last year. And the Nos. 2 and 3 all time in Germans Johannes Vetter and Thomas Röhler, the reigning world and Olympic champions. Yet again, they will try to crack into the top four throws of all time, all held by retired Czech legend Jan Zelezny. The magic number is 94.64 meters. Vetter, competing for the first time since August, has thrown 94.44; Röhler 93.90.

Men’s 100m — 3 p.m. ET
Christian Coleman is a strong favorite here in the absence of new rival Noah Lyles. The top threats are countryman Mike Rodgers and Brits Reece Prescod and CJ Ujah, but Rodgers and Prescod didn’t make Coleman sweat in Shanghai on May 18, and Ujah’s lone 100m this season was a 10.13. Expect Coleman to eye 9.85, which would give him the 2019 world lead outright.

Women’s 3000m Steeplechase — 3:10 p.m. ET
World champion Emma Coburn faces world-record holder Beatrice Chepkoech for the first time this season. Coburn eyes her first win in a race with Chepkoech or fellow Kenyans Celliphine Chespol or Hyvin Kiyeng outside of the 2017 Worlds. And her second Diamond League victory to pair with a stunner in Shanghai in 2014, when the favored East Africans let her go, reportedly thinking she was a pacer.

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Michael Norman edges Noah Lyles in Rome 200m

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Noah Lyles‘ undefeated 200m record this Olympic cycle is gone. So is his unblemished head-to-head history with friendly rival Michael Norman.

Norman won a duel between the 2016 World Junior Championships roommates, clocking a personal-best 19.70 seconds at a Diamond League meet in Rome on Thursday night.

Norman, the world’s fastest 400m man since the Rio Olympics, got a jump on Lyles off the start and never relinquished that lead. Lyles closed in the final straight but crossed in 19.72 for his first outdoor 200m loss since the 2016 Olympic trials.

“I still have a lot of technical issues with myself, like: be patient,” Norman said, according to meet organizers, after taking .14 off his previous best and beating Lyles for the first time in four tries dating to 2015, according to Tilastopaja.org. “I did not have any expectations coming into this race. I just want to improve myself and not chase a time.”

Lyles and Norman finished fourth and fifth in those Rio trials, just missing the Olympic team, but beamed for performing so well as 18-year-olds. Lyles turned pro two weeks later. Norman matriculated at USC, where he focused on the 400m.

While the outgoing Lyles gained more attention for lighting up the international Diamond League circuit, the calmer Norman finished his NCAA career last year by becoming the sixth-fastest 400m runner ever. He lowered his personal best to 43.45 on April 20, the fastest time ever that early in a year and by somebody that young.

Last season, Lyles joined Usain Bolt as the only men to break 19.7 in the 200m four times in one year.

But now, Lyles is the fastest this year in the 100m, and Norman leads the world in the 200m. Neither is expected to race those events at the USATF Outdoor Championships next month, the qualifier for worlds. Lyles is focused on the 200m; Norman the 400m as they eye world championships debuts in September.

Full Rome results are here. The Diamond League moves to Oslo next Thursday, with Christian Coleman, the world’s fastest man since the Rio Olympics, headlining.

Olympic champion Elaine Thompson ran a statement 100m with her fastest time in nearly two years (10.89) to overtake new phenom Dina Asher-Smith of Great Britain by .05. U.S. champion Aleia Hobbs was third in 11.12.

Thompson, who swept the 100m and 200m in Rio, has since battled injuries and went winless outside her native Jamaica in 2018. She’s now fastest in the world this season.

“If I can run 10.94 when I’m feeling rusty, it’s not bad at all,” Asher-Smith said, according to meet organizers.

Donavan Brazier notched his first Diamond League win in the 800m, edging 2012 Olympic silver medalist Nijel Amos of Botswana by .02 with a lean. The 2017 U.S. champion clocked 1:43.63, fastest in the world since August. Double Olympic champion and world-record holder David Rudisha of Kenya has been sidelined since July 2017 due to quad problems.

Genzebe Dibaba prevailed in the 1500m in 3:56.28, her fastest time since lowering the world record to 3:50.07 in 2015. Dibaba held off Brit Laura Muir by .45, with Olympic bronze medalist Jenny Simpson taking fourth.

Olympic champion Dalilah Muhammad won the 400m hurdles in 53.67 seconds, giving her victories in both Diamond League races this season. However, the 2018 world leader Sydney McLaughlin wasn’t in either field. McLaughlin, 19, clocked the fastest time of 2018 at 52.75.

American Rai Benjamin clocked 47.58 to take the men’s 400m hurdles by a hefty 1.41 seconds over a field that lacked Qatari rival Abderrahman Samba. Samba, the second-fastest man ever in the event, owns the two fastest times of the year: 47.27 and 47.51.

Two-time Olympic javelin champion Barbora Spotakova had the worst Diamond League finish of her career, taking seventh in her first top-level meet since 2017, according to Tilastopaja.org. Spotakova, a 37-year-old Czech, gave birth to her second child last year. Her best throw Thursday — 61.51 meters — was more than 35 feet shy of her world record from 2008.

“I tried not to set any goals or to expect anything from myself here,” she said. “Every competition for me now is like a new start of my career.”

Swede Angelica Bengtsson upset Olympic gold and silver medalists Katerina Stefanidi and Sandi Morris in the pole vault, clearing 4.76 meters. Stefanidi and Morris each failed at three attempts at that height. Jenn Suhr, the 2012 Olympic champ, no-heighted with three 4.56 misses after having issues getting her poles on her flight.

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