Sydney McLaughlin smashes own world record to win women's Olympic 400m hurdles

American sets new mark of 51.46 seconds to finish ahead of compatriot Muhammad and Dutchwoman Bol

American Sydney McLaughlin smashed her own world record to capture the 400 metres hurdles gold medal in 51.46 seconds at the Tokyo Olympics on Wednesday.

Such was the 21-year-old's performance she could even afford a stutter on the penultimate hurdle before powering across the finish line to best her previous record of 51.90 set in June.

Compatriot Dalilah Muhammad, the 2019 world and 2016 Olympic champion, won silver in a personal best 51.58 and Femke Bol of the Netherlands took bronze in 52.03.

“I’m absolutely delighted. What a great race. I’m just grateful to be out here celebrating that extraordinary race and representing my country,” McLaughlin said.

It was another epic world record-breaking battle between the 21-year-old McLaughlin and the 31-year-old Muhammad.

Muhammad set a world record when she won the US trials in 2019 ahead of McLaughlin, before again beating her for gold at the 2019 World Championships in Doha in a near photo-finish with a new record.

McLaughlin avenged that loss in Oregon in June to defeat Muhammad at US trials with a devastating world record run.

McLaughlin's victory on Wednesday came after a superb tactical race which saw Muhammad make a flying start in the lane outside her rival.

Muhammad led coming off the final hurdle but McLaughlin produced a late burst of speed to claim her first gold medal.

“I saw Dalilah ahead of me with one to go," McLaughlin added. "I just thought ‘run your race’.

“The race doesn’t really start until hurdle seven. I just wanted to go out there and give it everything I had.

“It’s just about trusting your training, trusting your coach, and that will get you all the way round the track.

“I can’t really get it straight in my head yet. I’m sure I’ll process it and celebrate later.”

McLaughlin powered through in the last 20 metres to take the title and beat defending champion Muhammad having been third on the final bend.

It was McLaughlin's latest blockbuster performance since joining forces in 2020 with famed coach Bob Kersee, whom she credits with taking her to the next level after failing to reach the final at the 2016 Olympics.

"He just changed my perspective on how I approach the race, so yeah, I owe it all to him," she said. "I knew he saw something different in me than a lot of people did. He knew how to get me there.

"We practise the last 40m so many times," she added. "I knew I had to go and give it everything I had and dip at the line. Bobby was prepared for that kind of situation."

While silver was not the medal she had been hoping for, Muhammad was thrilled to have set a personal best of 52.16 and said she was proud of her team mate.

"Just like the men's race, all three of our times would have won any Olympics, any other year," she added. "I'm so proud to be part of that history and even more proud of my teammate, Sydney."

The women's showdown came a day after the men’s 400m hurdles world record tumbled on Tuesday when Karsten Warholm broke his own world record to win in 45.94s.

He took almost a second off his previous world best of 46.70s he set in Oslo at the start of July.

The USA’s Rai Benjamin (46.17s) was second with Brazil’s Alison Dos Santos (46.72s) third – with both coming inside Kevin Young’s long-standing previous world record of 46.78s the American set 29 years ago.

"I can't really get it straight in my head yet. I'm sure I'll process it and celebrate later," McLaughlin said of her record run.

McLaughlin's world record on Wednesday is just the latest in a slew of records that have tumbled on the Olympic Stadium track, which athletes at the Games have said is conducive to fast times.

Updated: August 4th 2021, 11:16 AM