Dalilah Muhammad Breaks World Record in Thrilling 400-Meter Hurdle Match-Up

She took gold by holding off fellow American Sydney McLaughlin down the homestretch.

  • American Dalilah Muhammad won the gold medal at the IAAF World Championships in the 400-meter hurdles on Friday in a world-record time of 52.16.
  • She beat 20-year-old Sydney McLaughlin, who pushed her all through the race and finished second with a personal best of 52.23. That is the second fastest time ever behind Muhammad.
  • The two have been dueling all summer, and Muhammad set the previous world record at the USATF Championships in July.

Dalilah Muhammad accomplished the ultimate championship performance in the women’s 400-meter hurdles final. The American standout broke her own world record and earned her first world championship gold medal in a winning time of 52.16.

“The race was pretty fast from the start,” Muhammad told Runner’s World. “Sometimes you tell yourself to back off a little, that you’re going too fast, but in this race I knew there was no holding back, that it could be done.”

Heading into the final, Muhammad and fellow American Sydney McLaughlin set the stage for a highly anticipated match-up, and they didn’t disappoint at the IAAF World Championships in Doha. McLaughlin finished behind her in a personal best of 52.23. Jamaica’s Rushell Clayton also ran a personal best on her way to a third-place finish in 53.74.

“I feel like if I wasn’t going to get the win, I just wanted to PR, and it’s not like it was a far-off race,” McLaughlin said. “We were both right there.” McLaughlin’s time makes her the second fastest woman ever in the 400-meter hurdles.

From the gun, Muhammad had the upper hand over her competition. From lane six, she exploded out of the blocks and led the field over every barrier. Out of lane four, McLaughlin trailed slightly behind for the entire race and unleashed one last surge on the homestretch. But Muhammad couldn’t be caught as she flew over the final barriers and into the finish line for another world record in the span of just over two months.

After the victory, Muhammad said there was pressure to get out quickly with McLaughlin in the race.

“Sydney finishes great,” Muhammad said. “I just wanted to use my technique and my abilities to be the best I could. I think I’m a better hurdler and just wanted to use my speed and put as much distance as I could.”

Through the first round and the semifinal, McLaughlin consistently ran the fastest time of the day. With an opening mark of 54.45 to win her first heat and then a victory in 53.81 in the semifinal, McLaughlin looked poised to continue her winning streak for the final. Muhammad also won her sections with slightly slower times—54.87 in the first round and 53.91 in the semifinal.

“I think your last effort is always your best, and it keeps a fresher picture of what you need to do,” Muhammad said. “Each round I do something different to prepare for the final. I’m definitely a rounds runner.”

The rivalry between the two Americans gained momentum in the summer when Muhammad broke the world record while winning gold at the USATF Outdoor Championships. She clocked 52.20, breaking a 16-year-old world record. Behind Muhammad, McLaughlin finished second while running 52.88 to make Team USA.

“I think a 52.20 came as more of a shock in that race,” Muhammad said. “I had a lot of adrenaline pumping, and this race I felt a little bit more determined and focused. It hurt a little bit more.”

After the championship in Des Moines, Iowa, McLaughlin had one of her best races to date when she won the Diamond League final in 52.85. In the process, she flew past runner-up Shamier Little and Muhammad, who faded to third on the homestretch.

“It’s the rookie and the vet, constantly being able to race against her and learn and see what it’s like to break world records,” McLaughlin said of her relationship with Muhammad. “There’s not a lot of communication, but there’s a lot of watching. We definitely push each other.”

McLaughlin, 20, is best known for making the 2016 Olympic team when she was only 16 and had just finished her junior year in high school. She went on to compete for the University of Kentucky and broke the collegiate record. She turned pro after her freshman year and has consistently been one of the best hurdlers in the world.

Muhammad, 29, is a four-time global medalist. She earned her first medal at the 2013 IAAF World Championships in Moscow, where she finished second. One of her best championship performance came in 2016 when she flew to Olympic gold in Rio. In 2017, she finished second to fellow American Kori Carter at the world championships in London.

“I definitely wanted to go out there and get the gold,” Muhammad said on Friday. “Two silvers [medals] previously, so definitely the gold is what I was going for. I knew it’d be a tough race so I just tried to be as competitive as I possibly could.”

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