The women’s 400-meter hurdles final on Wednesday morning in Tokyo is one of the marquee events of the track and field meet. Two Americans, Dalilah Muhammad and Sydney McLaughlin, are renewing their rivalry with an Olympic gold at stake.
At the U.S. trials in June, McLaughlin broke Muhammad’s world record to finish first. But Muhammad is still the defending Olympic and world champion, and her mechanics are pure artistry.
McLaughlin finished in 51.90 seconds at the trials, becoming the first woman to run the race in less than 52 seconds. Muhammad, who had finished second in 52.42 seconds, ran to her to celebrate.
McLaughlin, 21, was still in high school when she qualified to compete at the 2016 Olympics, and was celebrated as a prodigy on the rise. In Rio de Janeiro, she advanced to the semifinals before she was eliminated at age 17. Now, she is the favorite in an event that is packed with talent.
Muhammad, 31, has faced some challenges since breaking her own world record — and outracing McLaughlin — at the 2019 world championships. She was hampered by hamstring injuries and said she tested positive with Covid in February.
“That definitely impacted my training,” she said in June. “But I kind of got my fitness back right when I needed to.”