Shelby Houlihan

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.

MORE: Olympic 1500m medalist retires

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Allyson Felix set for ninth world championships team, first as a mom

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DES MOINES — Allyson Felix finished sixth in the USATF Outdoor Championships 400m, which will likely put her in a ninth straight world championships. And her first as a mom.

But a fifth Olympics, not a ninth worlds, are at the front of her mind.

Felix made that clear after racing three times in as many days in her first meet since having daughter Camryn via emergency C-section at 32 weeks on Nov. 28.

The top three go to worlds in Doha in two months in the individual 400m. The top six are generally taken for the 4x400m relay pool.

This will be the first time in Felix’s 16-year pro career that she will not be going to the Olympics or worlds in an individual event. Unsurprising given she said before the meet, her first in more than a year, that she was “far from” her best.

Felix said she will talk with her coach, Bobby Kersee, and consider her fitness before deciding whether to accept a potential relay invitation.

“It’s bigger than world championships,” said Felix, who had four and a half months of good training before this meet, shorter than she would normally prefer. “I would love to be running for an individual spot at world championships, but where I’m at in my career — I’m grateful for all my experiences at world championships — I want to be back at the Olympics. I want that more than anything. I want to go out on my terms.”

Felix was sixth in 51.94 seconds, 1.73 seconds behind winner Shakima Wimbley. In three rounds here, she ran 52.50, 51.45 and 51.94, well off her personal best of 49.26 and her routine ability to get close to 50 flat, and usually break it, at major meets from 2011 to 2016.

Felix, the most decorated female Olympic track and field athlete with nine medals and six golds, has made every U.S. Olympic and world team dating to 2003, when she was 17 years old.

This was her toughest team to make yet. Camryn and husband Kenneth Ferguson wore “Felix the Cat” clothing in the Drake Stadium stands.

“I did this off very little training, so that gives me a lot of hope,” she said.

USATF Outdoors conclude Sunday with finals including the men’s and women’s 200m.

USATF OUTDOORS: TV Schedule | Full Results

In other events, Michael Norman was upset in the 400m by Fred Kerley, who clocked a personal-best 43.64 to become the sixth-fastest man in history. Norman, undefeated the previous two years, was second in 43.79 to make his first world team. Norman revealed afterward that he didn’t practice the previous two weeks because of an unspecified strain.

“Originally, I wasn’t supposed to run,” said Norman, has run 43.45 this year. “I made [the decision] the day of racing. I warmed up and said I could do it.”

Paralympian and double amputee Blake Leeper was fifth, which would normally be enough to make worlds in the relay (like Felix), but he is facing a legal battle with the IAAF.

World-record holder Keni Harrison won the 100m hurdles in 12.44 and will be joined on the world team by Olympic gold and silver medalists Brianna McNeal and Nia Ali.

Shelby Houlihan repeated as U.S. 1500m champion, clocking 4:03.18 to relegate Jenny Simpson to second place by overtaking the Olympic bronze medalist on the last curve. They’re joined on the world team by Nikki Hiltz. Simpson, 32, has made 10 straight Olympic/world teams.

Two American records fell: DeAnna Price broke her own mark in the hammer (78.24 meters). Sam Kendricks broke Brad Walker‘s 11-year-old mark in the pole vault, clearing 6.06 meters. Only Ukrainian legend Sergey Bubka has cleared a higher height outdoors.

Vashti Cunningham, daughter of retired NFL All-Pro quarterback Randall Cunningham, took her third straight high jump crown. Cunningham, who ranks third in the world this year, cleared 1.96 meters.

Hillary Bor won the men’s 3000m steeplechase that lacked Olympic silver medalist Evan Jager, who will miss worlds due to a foot injury.

Rio gold medalists Tianna Bartoletta (long jump) and Kerron Clement (400m hurdles) will not be going to worlds after finishing last in their finals. Bartoletta jumped off her opposite foot following an injury last year, NBC Sports’ Paul Swangard said. Clement’s streak of 10 straight Olympic/world teams ends.

In non-finals, Noah Lyles and Christian Coleman moved closer to a showdown in Sunday’s 200m by advancing to the semifinals. Lyles is the fastest 200m runner in the world for two straight years. Coleman is the fastest 100m runner in the world for three straight years.

Olympic bronze medalist Tori Bowie and two-time U.S. champion Jenna Prandini scratched their 200m first-round heats. Both Bowie and Prandini also scratched out of the 100m, meaning Prandini will miss worlds.

Bowie can still compete at worlds in the 100m, where she is defending champion, because she competed in the long jump later Saturday. Defending champions have byes into worlds if they compete in at least one event at nationals.

Sha’Carri Richardson, who last month won the NCAA 100m in 10.75 seconds to become the ninth-fastest woman in history, missed the 200m semifinals by .001. The 19-year-old will likely miss the world team after placing eighth in the 100m on Friday.

All the favorites advanced in the 110m hurdles (Grant Holloway, Daniel RobertsDevon Allen) and 400m hurdles (Dalilah MuhammadSydney McLaughlinShamier Little).

MORE: Noah Lyles responds to Usain Bolt question

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Christian Coleman runs world’s fastest 100m in three years

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Christian Coleman sprinted to take something at the Diamond League final in Brussels. He got it.

The world’s best sprinter since Usain Bolt‘s retirement ran the world’s fastest 100m in three years, 9.79 seconds into a headwind on Friday night. Adjusting for wind and altitude, it may have been the best sprint ever outside of the Bolt era.

“Mine,” Coleman repeated in a head-shaking, chest-thumping, finger-pointing celebration.

Coleman, a Rio Olympic 4x100m prelim runner, capped a roller-coaster season following his breakout 2017, when he ran a 40-yard dash one tenth faster than the NFL Combine record and beat Bolt to a 100m silver medal at the world championships behind Justin Gatlin.

He returned in the winter indoor season to three times run under the 60m world record. Coleman then struggled with hamstring problems in the spring and lost his first two 100m races.

Coleman took June off from meets to heal up. When he returned, Coleman won a pair of 100m races in July and August, but each time the runner-up clocked the same time to the hundredth. Coleman also developed a tendency to start strong, with the rest of the field gaining on him in the last half.

Not so Friday.

Coleman stormed out of the blocks as usual, but he kept enough of a lead that he eased crossing the finish ahead of countryman Ronnie Baker, who had the world’s fastest time of 2018 (9.87). Coleman won by .14, with Baker losing nearly a tenth freezing in the starting blocks.

“I came into the whole week with a chip on my shoulder that people had stopped talking about me,” Coleman said, according to Reuters. “They forgot everything I did last year and at the indoors. I mean you can’t blame them.”

Full Brussels results are here.

The outdoor track and field season concludes in earnest with the IAAF Continental Cup next weekend, streaming live on NBC Sports Gold and airing on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA.

In other events Friday, Ethiopian Selemon Barega ran the sixth-fastest 5000m in history, a 12:43.02.

American revelation Shelby Houlihan lost a 1500m for the first time this season, unable to catch Brit Laura Muir in the final straightaway of the 1500m. Muir clocked 3:58.49, edging Houlihan by .45.

Houlihan, 11th at the Olympics and 13th at the 2017 Worlds in the 5000m, this year won two Diamond League 1500m races, plus swept the 1500m and 5000m at the U.S. Championships and broke the American 5000m record.

Olympic champion Brianna McNeal edged world-record holder Kendra Harrison in the 100m hurdles, 12.61 to 12.63, to cut Harrison’s lead in their 2018 head-to-head to 3-2.

Double Olympic gold medalist Christian Taylor was beaten by Cuban-born Portuguese rival Pedro Pablo Pichardo in the triple jump. Pichardo is set to end Taylor’s three-year reign as the year-end world No. 1. Taylor chose the non-global championship year to focus on trying to break 45 seconds in the 400m.

Mondo Duplantis, the recent Louisiana high school graduate pole vaulter for Sweden, surprisingly bowed out at 5.83 meters. Two weeks ago, Duplantis cleared 6.05 meters at the European Championships. Russian Timur Morgonov won Friday by clearing 5.93 meters.

Bahrain’s Salwa Eid Naser won the 400m in 49.33, topping world champion Phyllis Francis and U.S. champion Shakim Wimbley. The field lacked Olympic gold and silver medalists Shaunae Miller-Uibo and Allyson Felix.

Miller-Uibo owns the fastest time in the world of 2018 (48.97). Felix has scarcely competed in this non-global championship season.

Kenyans went one-two-three in the women’s 3000m steeplechase, led by world-record holder Beatrice Chepkoech in 8:55.10. World champion Emma Coburn of the U.S. was fourth in 9:05.61.

Croatian Sandra Perković finished outside the top two of a discus competition for the first time since 2014. The Olympic and world champion was bettered by Cuban Yaime Perez (65 meters) and Brazilian Andressa de Morais (64.65).

Olympic triple jump champion Caterine Ibargüen of Colombia added a Diamond League season title in the long jump, though the final lacked Olympic champion Tianna Bartoletta and world champion Brittney Reese.

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