EUGENE, Ore. — Edwin Moses meandered down the warm-up track on Wednesday night as the women prepared for the semifinals of the 400-meter hurdles, the race that made him one of the most indomitable champions in the sport. history of athletics. He watched Sydney McLaughlin cross the floor with a scowl. “That gladiator look I used to have,” called him Moses. Bobby Kersee, McLaughlin’s trainer and good friend, approached him.

“Bobby, your daughter is doing really, really well,” Moses said.

“Hey, after chasing you all these years, I learned a little something about the event,” Kersee replied.

Moses took the comment as a big compliment. Kersee once coached athletes who unsuccessfully tried to conquer Moses in the 1970s and 1980s when he won 122 consecutive 400m hurdles races over 10 years.

“He put everything he learned training guys to beat me and put it into her,” Moses said. “She absorbed it all.”

After decades of searching, Kersee has found an athlete who could one day challenge the accomplishments of Moses – or any other runner who has ever tied a pair of track spikes. Friday night at the world championships, McLaughlin drastically reset the world record she has played with for the past year, further separating herself from a field that had long since lost sight of her.

At the start of 2021, no woman had run once around a track and over 10 hurdles in less than 52 seconds. McLaughlin has broken the record four times since then. She lowered it to 50.68 on Friday night as the sun set over Hayward Field, breaking her record by 0.73 seconds.

McLaughlin’s time would have beaten two women in Friday’s 400-meter final – the one they ran without hurdles.

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At just 22 years old, McLaughlin resides on a higher plane within his event. Even in a meet where Noah Lyles shattered one of Usain Bolt’s records and Athing Mu asserted his superiority over 800 meters, McLaughlin was behind no one in America’s track and field hierarchy.

“She’s the prototype for the event,” Moses said.

From lane 5, McLaughlin caught everyone on the outside in the middle of the straight. At the second corner, she had passed everyone. When the final bend came, she had already erupted. After clearing the final hurdle, a pasture of brick-red track separated her from Dutch Femke Bol and American bronze medalist Dalilah Muhammad, the friendly rival whose record McLaughlin won at the US Olympic Trials last year and never looked back.

Afterwards, McLaughlin sat on the track on her back, her mouth hanging open, analyzing what she had done. Already an Olympic gold medalist, McLaughlin is now a world champion and the owner of a performance that NBC analyst Ato Boldon immediately hailed as the best he had ever seen.

As McLaughlin further cemented his legendary status, another made a surprise return. A week after announcing that she had run her last race as the United States won bronze in the 4×400 mixed relay at the start of the world championships, Allyson Felix will come out of a short retirement and compete in the preliminary round of the women’s 4×400 relay, a US track and field spokesperson said.

But that night belonged to McLaughlin. She made the 2016 U.S. Olympic team at age 16, blazing with greatness from the moment she started jumping the hurdles in Dunellen, NJ In 2019, however, she still hadn’t passed Muhammad, who set the world record by beating McLaughlin at the world championships.

During the pandemic layoff, McLaughlin changed coaches to Kersee, a legendary figure who coached his wife Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Florence Griffith Joyner and Felix. Kersee is unconventional and notoriously demanding. He asked McLaughlin to watch an old Moses movie, dropping his cadence from 15 to 14 strides between the hurdles. He entered her in 60 and 100 meter hurdle races at the start of the season.

“Bobby accepts people who want to come into the camp and who know who they are coming to deal with,” said Jackie Joyner Kersee, who became McLaughlin’s mentor. “He won’t change for anyone. If you’re going to work with Bobby, you have to take all the good and all the bad that comes with it.

Dominant and telegenic, McLaughlin was reluctant to embrace stardom. She married Andre Levrone Jr., briefly an NFL wide receiver, this spring, which she documented extensively on social media. Otherwise, she shares little of herself publicly beyond athletic brilliance and devotion to her faith.

McLaughlin stares into the blocks. She rarely displays emotion on the track, even after crossing the finish line. A lane on Friday night, Muhammad smiled and waved to the crowd after being introduced. When McLaughlin’s name rang out over the public address to loud cheers, she stared at the ground, her face unchanged.

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“She’s not kidding,” Moses said. “She sees, but she does not see. I can say. Her mind is so focused she could see right through you. That’s how I was. I did not care.

The 400 meter hurdles is a navigating land mine race. Moses saw the course as an opportunity to make 31 mistakes – the start, then the takeoff, flight and landing on the 10 obstacles. Runners rarely stumble over hurdles, but any lack of form can doom a competitor. McLaughlin has the athleticism to jump off both feet, and her strength and speed make her incredibly efficient. She makes a complicated race simple.

“It doesn’t seem like she’s moving that fast,” Moses said. “Sydney looks like she’s doing almost no work.”

McLaughlin eliminated any drama from the end of her run, but in the women’s javelin final, American Kara Winger made up for it. On her sixth and final pitch, after urging the home crowd, Winger threw a 64.05-metre (210 ft 1 in) throw that catapulted her from fifth to second. Winger’s massive uplift gave American women medals in all four throwing events.

As McLaughlin took his event to new heights, Michael Norman returned to his in the 400m. Norman won gold with a brave final sprint, edging out a packed field in 44.29 seconds. In the final corner, Norman sprinted even with Grenadian Kirani James, Briton Matt Hudson-Smith and South African world record holder Wayde van Niekerk. Norman managed to take a small lead and held them all back, raising his arms above his head.

“I just want to thank everyone who has stuck with me over the past three years,” Norman said.

Norman became one of America’s best and most promising sprinters in 2019, tying Jeremy Wariner for fourth fastest men at 43.45 seconds. But he lost the US Championship that year to Fred Kerley and failed to advance to the World Championship Finals due to injury. In Tokyo, Norman entered as the favorite but finished a disappointing fifth before saving his Olympics by winning gold in the 4×400 relay. At only 24 years old, Norman is once again on top of the world.

It was a good night for the American men once running around the track. After adding to their debacle-laden history in Tokyo, the US men’s 4×100 team – Christian Coleman, Noah Lyles, Elijah Hall and Marvin Bracy-Williams – completed a lap in 37.87, the fastest time in the world this year, in a preliminary round. In a display of their chemistry, Lyles then led them into an impromptu group rap of Meek Mill’s “Dreams and Nightmares.”

“Nice day at the office,” Williams-Bracy said. “We’re just having fun.”


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