Matthew Centrowitz

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

Leave a comment

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.

MORE: Olympic 1500m medalist retires

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Pre Classic: Olympic champions on the comeback; TV, stream schedule

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Prefontaine Classic relocated, temporarily, and it brought the best fields of the Diamond League season with it to Stanford, Calif.

That includes the world’s fastest man and woman this year (Christian Coleman and Elaine Thompson), the athlete who has made the most worldwide headlines this season (Caster Semenya) and a bevy of other reigning Olympic and world champions.

Notably, Olympic 10,000m champion Almaz Ayana of Ethiopia and Olympic 1500m champion Faith Kipyegon will compete for the first time since 2017. World 100m champions Justin Gatlin and Tori Bowie are in their first Diamond League meets in more than one year. It’s the first Diamond League in two years for 2008 Olympic 400m champ LaShawn Merritt. It’s also the first race of 2019 for Olympic 1500m champion Matthew Centrowitz.

NBC and NBC Sports Gold air live coverage Sunday from 4-6 p.m. ET.

The Pre Classic has been held annually since 1975 in Eugene, Ore. But Hayward Field’s reconstruction ahead of the 2020 Olympic Trials forced a move to Cobb Track and Angell Field at Stanford.

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

3:43 p.m. — Men’s Pole Vault
3:57 — Women’s Shot Put
4:03 — Men’s 400m Hurdles
4:08 — Women’s High Jump
4:11 — Women’s 3000m Steeplechase
4:27 — Women’s 100m
4:34 — Men’s 2 Mile
4:47 — Women’s 800m
4:56 — Men’s 110m Hurdles
5:01 — Men’s Shot Put
5:05 — Women’s 3000m
5:19 — Men’s 400m
5:25 — Women’s 200m
5:31 — Women’s 1500m
5:39 — Men’s 100m
5:51 — Men’s Mile

Here are 10 events to watch (stats courtesy Tilastopaja.org):

Men’s Pole Vault — 3:43 p.m.
The Big Three of the event meet for the first time this season: 2012 Olympic champion and world-record holder Renaud Lavillenie of France, 2017 World champion Sam Kendricks and 2018 and 2019 world leader Mondo Duplantis of Sweden, who just turned pro after his freshman year at LSU. Lavillenie has competed just once this season due to injury. Duplantis was beaten at NCAAs by Chris Nilsen (also in the Pre field). But Kendricks has been hot, winning the first three Diamond League pole vaults this season (though Lavillenie and Nilsen weren’t in any of those fields and Duplantis just one).

Women’s High Jump — 4:08 p.m.
U.S. champion Vashti Cunningham takes another crack at Russian Mariya Lasitskene, who has just two losses in the last three years. Cunningham is 0-7 versus Lasitskene but has this spring already bettered her top clearance of 2018. Lasitskene, though, appears in top form after taking three attempts at a world record 2.10 meters in Ostrava last week.

Women’s 3000m Steeplechase — 4:11 p.m.
Six of the eight fastest in history, headlined by world gold and silver medalists Emma Coburn and Courtney Frerichs. The only time either Coburn or Frerichs won a steeple that included any of the four fastest Kenyans in history was at those 2017 Worlds. Another chance Sunday.

Women’s 100m — 4:27 p.m.
NCAA champion Sha’Carri Richardson would have been the favorite here in her pro debut if not for what happened Friday. Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, a two-time Olympic 100m champion, clocked her fastest time in six years (10.73 seconds) to become the fastest mom in history and No. 2 in the world this year behind Rio gold medalist Elaine Thompson. Also watch reigning world champ Tori Bowie, who is coming back from a quad tear and coaching change.

Women’s 800m — 4:47 p.m.
Caster Semenya races her trademark event for the first time since a Swiss Supreme Court ruled her eligible while it deliberates on her appeal against a Court of Arbitration for Sport decision to uphold an IAAF rule capping testosterone in women’s events from the 400m through the mile. The Swiss court ruling applies only to Semenya and not the other Rio Olympic medalists, Francine Niyonsaba and Margaret Wambui, who are also affected by the new rule. So Semenya’s closest threat at Pre is American record holder Ajeé Wilson, but Semenya has won 30 straight 800m races dating to 2015.

Men’s Shot Put — 5:01 p.m.
Olympic champion Ryan Crouser had a sterling record at Hayward Field, taking NCAA, Pre Classic and Olympic Trials titles. He’s pretty strong in California, too, recording his personal best (22.74 meters) in Long Beach in April. Nobody has been within a foot and a half of that this season, but the last two world champions (New Zealand’s Tom Walsh and American Joe Kovacs) will try to snap his undefeated 2019 on Sunday.

Men’s 400m — 5:19 p.m.
Lost some sizzle with the withdrawal of 2012 Olympic champion Kirani James, who has missed time with Graves’ disease and, more recently, his mother’s death. Instead, the three fastest Americans of the last decade line up — 2018 and 2019 world leader Michael Norman (43.45 from April 20), 2017 world No. 2 Fred Kerley and 2008 Olympic champion LaShawn Merritt.

Women’s 200m — 5:25 p.m.
Strongest sprint field of the meet: 2016 Olympic champion Elaine Thompson, 2015 and 2017 World champion Dafne Schippers and 2018 world leader Dina Asher-Smith. Should produce the fastest time in the world this year, which is currently 22.16, and the favorite for world champs.

Men’s 100m — 5:39 p.m.
Justin Gatlin and Christian Coleman go head-to-head for the first time since the 2017 Worlds, where Gatlin took gold, Usain Bolt silver and Coleman bronze. Coleman is the world’s fastest man this Olympic cycle (9.79) and this year (9.85). Gatlin, 37, hasn’t broken 10 seconds since beating Bolt but has a bye to defend his title in Doha in September.

Men’s Mile — 5:51 p.m.
Olympic 1500m champ Matthew Centrowitz races on the track for the first time since July 22, eyeing his first win in the Pre mile in his sixth try. The foes are formidable, including the top two milers since Rio — Kenyans Timothy Cheruiyot and Elijah Manangoi — Norwegian brothers Filip and Jakob Ingebrigtsen and Ethiopian Yomif Kejelcha, who on March 3 broke the 22-year-old indoor mile world record. Nobody has been within four seconds of the outdoor mile word record (Hicham El Guerrouj‘s 3:43.13 in 1999) since 2007.

MORE: Caster Semenya says she’s blocked from Rabat

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Matthew Centrowitz eyes American record after bounce-back year

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Olympic 1500m champion Matthew Centrowitz sat down for a Q&A last month at the end of a season in which he reclaimed the U.S. title (his fifth career) and grabbed his first Diamond League win. Centrowitz, after a 2017 plagued by health setbacks, is looking forward to chasing the American record in the 1500m, a repeat Olympic title in Tokyo and, possibly, moving up in distance …

OlympicTalk: Your overall thoughts on the year. A lot was made last year of the health setbacks. You came back, won the U.S. title, got your first Diamond League win. How do you feel?

Centrowitz: It’s definitely been an up-and-down year, to say the least. Kind of a slow start, just from me having the big setback I had in November/December [coming back too early from an early August hamstring strain] then not running an indoor season [after returning to training in January]. I can only remember one time where I hadn’t run an indoor season in the past decade. The second half went really well starting with the USA Championships. That was the first goal I had for the year, going back and reclaiming the title. Once I did that, the pressure was kind of off and I really wanted to mix it up with some of these guys in these Diamond League races. I knew I probably wasn’t in shape to run an American record, or even a PR, but I was pleasantly surprised to run 3:31 [in Monaco], which is my third-fastest time.

OlympicTalk: What’s your best race since Rio?

Centrowitz: I would probably say Oxy 2017 (video here). I was pretty excited about that race, ran 3:33 domestically. I haven’t really run that fast in the U.S. And obviously getting a chance to compete against Mo [Farah], one of my teammates, and a great caliber of field. I was excited to come out with the win.

OlympicTalk: How big is the American 1500m record for you? [Bernard Lagat’s 3:29.30, 1.1 seconds faster than Centrowitz’s PR from 2015] Is it bigger than repeating as Olympic champion?

Centrowitz: It’s probably No. 2 behind repeating Olympic gold, but since the Olympics aren’t for two years, it’s, right now, in my rear-view mirror. Especially after this year, running 3:31 with the year I’ve had, I think I can probably knock a half-second off the American record. Somewhere between 3:28-3:29 flat.

Luckily, the men’s 1500m is so deep these days that there’s at least one or two races a year that go around that fast. If I just get back into shape that I know I’m capable of being in, stay healthy, mix it up with those guys, who knows how fast I’m capable of going.

OlympicTalk: When did the American record first seem possible to you?

Centrowitz: Around 2014, 2015. Once I had my PR down to 3:30. I’m still third-fastest on the list [behind Lagat and Sydney Maree]. Where do you go but No. 1? No one’s like, “I want to be No. 2.”

OlympicTalk: Do you think you need the American record to be considered by a lot of people as the greatest American miler ever, or do you think you’ve done enough?

Centrowitz: That’s up to the people to decide, but in my eyes, I’m biased. I don’t think I need to. For sure, if I do get it, it will be undisputed. In my eyes, I don’t think I would need that to be considered the best.

OlympicTalk: Do you see yourself moving up in distance after 2020 or 2024?

Centrowitz: I don’t know. Certainly, I thought I’d be in the 5K by now for sure. I was primarily a two-miler in high school, so to drop back down to the mile in college was definitely a surprise to me and to continue to have this kind of success. I train primarily like a 3K/5K guy anyways, so definitely running 5Ks in the near future [starting with the USATF 5K Championships in New York’s Central Park on Nov. 3]. See what kinds of times I put up.

The day I don’t think I can PR anymore in the 1500m, and the day I stop medaling and feel like I’m in medal contention is the day I’ll probably move up.

OlympicTalk: What do you think about Jakob Ingebrigtsen? [The Norwegian born in 2000 is the youngest sub-4-minute miler in history and swept the 1500m and 5000m at the European Championships in August.]

Centrowitz: He’s continued to surprise me throughout the whole year. At Stanford [the Payton Jordan Invitational 1500m won by Ingebrigtsen in May], I wasn’t too surprised with his time, but I was surprised about how well he put away the field. Not just me, but Paul Chelimo is no slouch. My teammates Eric [Jenkins] and Craig [Engels] are very good as well. I was kind of surprised by how easy he put us away the last 200m. From there, he continued to get better and better.

He’s a world-record holder in his age group. Any kind of world record in itself is an amazing feat, so what we’re witnessing is greatness. How well he’s run and continued throughout the year, he’s progressing with each week and each race. I had a chance to see him in St. Moritz, Switzerland, where I was training. And some of his brothers. The kid obviously works tremendously hard, and he’s mentioned it interviews, too, that he’s been training like a professional for years. So I guess that doesn’t come to me as quite a surprise since he’s had older brothers get him into the sport. But at the end of the day, nonetheless, he’s a 17-year-old kid running and beating the world’s best. So it is surprising, but also the way he works, how hard he works, I’m sure he’s not quite as surprised and his brothers aren’t surprised as well.

OlympicTalk: You played an April Fool’s joke in 2105 that you were moving up to the marathon. If you had to say right now, will you ever run a marathon?

Centrowitz: Probably not, if I had to make a guess. But you never know. I’m not opposed to it. I have teammates now doing it, and the training that they say it takes for it, you’re just constantly tired. I want to end this sport on a positive note. I want to continue running when I’m retired. Marathon training might put me in that mode where I’m not really enjoying the training or want to run another step when I’m done.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Jenny Simpson adapts to emerging 1500m stars in U.S., abroad