Dalilah Muhammad

Dalilah Muhammad on history in 2019: ‘I put it out of mind I was the world-record holder’

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After arriving in Doha last September, Dalilah Muhammad told her coach that the world track and field championships would produce fast times. Even if she wasn’t necessarily thinking of herself.

“I had to just put it out of my mind that I was the world-record holder,” Muhammad said in a recent watchback with NBC Sports track and field commentator Leigh Diffey.

She just wanted to win. Time didn’t matter.

Muhammad eyed a complete set of titles in the 400m hurdles. She won the Olympics in 2016. She became the world-record holder at the USATF Outdoor Championships in July 2019, two weeks after suffering a concussion in a training fall (without hurdles).

All that was lacking: a biennial world championship.

The Khalifa International Stadium track felt fast to Muhammad. The conditions, perfect, thanks to an air conditioning system. Though Muhammad said it was, at least at first, difficult for her body to adjust from the temperatures outside the stadium, eclipsing 100 degrees.

She was third-fastest in the preliminary heats and second-fastest in the semifinals, slower than 20-year-old rival Sydney McLaughlin in both rounds.

Then came the final and arguably the most anticipated head-to-head of the meet. It delivered.

Both women ran faster than the previous 15-year-old world record that Muhammad broke at nationals.

Muhammad clocked 52.16, lowering her record from 52.20. McLaughlin registered 52.23, her dash off the last hurdle not quite enough to reel in Muhammad.

Just like at nationals, Muhammad needed somebody to tell her that she ran the fastest time in history.

“I was just looking to see who won the race, and then I noticed when they said world record that I had broke it,” she said in Doha. “I did not expect to break the world record.”

For the first time since the 1992 Barcelona Games, the U.S. goes into an Olympics without any reigning world champions in the women’s flat sprints. That means added attention on Muhammad and McLaughlin over the next year.

“It’s the rookie and the vet,” McLaughlin, who like Muhammad trains in Southern California but with a different coach, said in Doha. “Constantly being able to race against her and learn and see what it’s like to break world records. There’s not a lot of communication, but there’s a lot of watching.”

MORE: Cross-country could be added to 2024 Olympics

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Dalilah Muhammad, Eliud Kipchoge named world athletes of the year

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Record-breakers Dalilah Muhammad and Eliud Kipchoge were named the World Athletics athletes of the year on Saturday.

Muhammad, who twice lowered the 400m hurdles world record last season, became the first athlete in her event to take the honor since Brit Sally Gunnell in 1993. And the first American woman to earn it from any event since Allyson Felix in 2012.

The Kenyan Kipchoge became the first repeat athlete of the year since Usain Bolt in 2012 and 2013. Kipchoge, who lowered the marathon world record by 78 seconds in 2018, became the first person to break two hours in a marathon on Oct. 12 in a non-record-eligible event.

The other female finalists were Jamaican sprinter Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Dutch distance runner Sifan Hassan, Kenyan marathoner Brigid Kosgei and Venezuelan triple jumper Yulimar Rojas.

The other male finalists were Ugandan distance runner Joshua Cheptegei, American pole vaulter Sam Kendricks and sprinter Noah Lyles and Norwegian hurdler Karsten Warholm.

World Athletics is track and field’s international governing body, rebranded from IAAF this year.

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Nia Ali, mother of two, wins 100m hurdles; U.S. ties record for most track worlds golds

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Nia Ali made it yet another mom to earn gold at the world track and field championships in Doha. The U.S. finished the meet with three titles on the final day, including both 4x400m relays, for 14 overall to tie its record for most golds at a single worlds.

Pretty strong going into an Olympic year.

The U.S. previously earned 14 golds in 2005 and 2007, but had fewer total medals at those meets than in Doha, where they took home 29. However, there was no mixed-gender 4x400m (which the U.S. won in Doha) back then.

Ali, who earned Rio Olympic silver a year after having son Titus, earned her first world title a year after having daughter Yuri. She took a victory lap with both kids after lowering her personal best in the semifinals (12.44) and final (12.34).

Ali led a U.S. one-two with Keni Harrison, who missed the Rio Olympic team then broke the world record before those Games (12.20). Harrison earned her first major outdoor championships medal.

Ali then took a victory lap with both kids. Yuri also took a victory lap with her dad, Canadian Andre De Grasse, after he took 100m bronze last week.

“Just because you’re a mom doesn’t mean that you can’t get out here and continue to be an athlete as well, a top, world-class athlete,” Ali, who joined Allyson Felix and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce as moms to win sprint titles in Doha, said after the first round on Saturday. “I know [Yuri] is going to look up to me and look at this and it’s definitely going to keep her motivated and show what strength really looks like to be able to go through this and train hard and be on top.”

It was the culmination of a busy season for Ali, who briefly left her summer training base in Germany to attend a parent-teacher conference at 4-year-old Titus’ school in Jacksonville, Fla.

TRACK WORLDS: Results

In the relays, Felix extended her record of most career world titles (13) when the U.S. women won the 4x400m. Felix was not part of the final quartet, but she earned a medal as a preliminary heat runner. Felix had the fastest split of all the runners in the prelims, according to Jon Mulkeen of the IAAF.

The U.S. women — Phyllis FrancisSydney McLaughlinDalilah Muhammad and Wadeline Jonathas — prevailed by 2.97 seconds over Poland in 3:18.92, the world’s fastest since the 2012 Olympics.

The U.S. men’s 4x400m — Fred Kerley, Michael Cherry, WIl London III and Rai Benjamin — had a closer call, topping Jamaica by 1.21 seconds in 2:56.69, the fastest since the 2008 Olympics.

In other finals, Kenyan Timothy Cheruiyot led wire to wire to win the 1500m by a hefty 2.12 seconds over Algerian Taoufik Makhloufi in 3:29.26. U.S. Olympic champion Matthew Centrowitz was eighth, two years after getting eliminated in the first round at worlds.

Cheruiyot, 23, has lost just three times at 1500m or the mile in 17 meets over the last two years.

Ugandan Joshua Cheptegei won the first world championships 10,000m since Mo Farah left the track for the roads. Cheptegei, who took silver behind Farah at 2017 Worlds, clocked 26:48.36, the world’s fastest time in five years. The top American was 2008 Olympic Opening Ceremony flag bearer Lopez Lomong in seventh.

German Malaika Mihambo won a long jump final that included neither reigning Olympic champion Tianna Bartoletta (failed to make U.S. team) nor defending world champion Brittney Reese (missed the final by one centimeter). Mihambo, who came in as the world No. 1 this year, recorded the world’s best jump of this Olympic cycle, 7.30 meters, to win by more than a foot.

American Tori Bowie, the 2017 World 100m champion who went nearly five years between long jump competitions, took fourth.

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