From Allyson Felix to Gabby Thomas, the women of Team USA track and field are dominating the headlines when it comes to making history at the Tokyo Olympics. And another name to add to the list? Sydney McLaughlin.
During Tokyo's 400m hurdle finals on August 4, the 21-year-old snagged the gold with a time of 51.46 seconds, breaking the world record she'd previously set at June's Olympic Trials by .46 seconds. Her U.S. teammate Dalilah Muhammad, 31, was close behind her with silver at a time of 51.58 seconds—beating McLaughlin's speedy Trials time. The two, who consistently make history in efforts to beat the other, are the first and second woman to ever run the 400m hurdles in under 52 seconds. You can watch the nail-biting race below.
"Iron sharpening iron," McLaughlin said. "Every time we step on the track, it's always something fast."
HER GOLDEN MOMENT!@GoSydGo takes the gold in world record fashion in the women's 400m hurdles final! #TokyoOlympics x @TeamUSA
📱: NBC Sports App pic.twitter.com/xFGFzaW6Gu
— #TokyoOlympics (@NBCOlympics) August 4, 2021
Though many like to call the two's storied back and forth a "rivalry," for McLaughlin and Muhammad—who embraced after their run—it's simply friendly competition.
"You can't always feel the race, especially when you have so many lanes in between you," Muhammad said. "But just knowing the competitor that she is, I expected her to be there. I knew she'd be there....She's definitely a strong competitor, but we're teammates first."
McLaughlin and Dalilah Muhammad's Olympic moment marks their fourth history-making battle.
McLaughlin's breakout turn at the Tokyo Olympics was the fourth time she and reigning 400m gold medalist, Dalilah Muhammad, battled it out for a world record.
The first was at the 2019 U.S. Outdoor Track and Field Championships, where Muhammad took home top honors with a time of 52.20, the fastest in 16 years. Later that year, in October at the World Championships, Muhammad broke her personal best again, this time with a 52.16. McLaughlin's second place time of 52.23 then made her the second fastest ever in the 400m hurdles.
But while some may look at their two-year back and forth as a rivalry, the athletes approach it as friendly competition.
“People can call it whatever they want to call it. It’s two great athletes pushing each other to be better," McLaughlin told The Washington Post. "There’s no animosity. There’s no hard feelings. It’s just two people trying to be their best. We wouldn’t be able to have these world records go back and forth without one another.”
31-year-old Muhammad added, “I don’t look it as a rivalry. We’re kind of coming in during different times in our careers. For me, it doesn’t seem like a rivalry. It’s actually unfortunate to me that it’s so looked upon that way because it makes it seem like we’re always going head-to-head, where in reality I wish Sydney nothing but the best. I love seeing where the event can go.”
Both of McLaughlin's parents ran track.
Not only does the New Jersey native's 5'9" frame come in handy when for mastering hurdles, but the sport is in her DNA. Both of her parents were runners who met at Manhattan College. Her father, Willie McLaughlin, was an All-American and made it to the 400m Olympic semifinals in 1984. As athletes themselves, they signed up their daughter for track at the age of 6.
“Running was just fun," she told L’OFFICIEL in a profile. "Winning for the first time and seeing how happy my parents were and getting rewarded with candy—I decided that’s what I wanted to do. My parents didn’t really coach or train me—they just let me run and I would win, and they saw potential in that.”
McLaughlin's boyfriend is former NFL player, Andre Levrone Jr.
Though both seem to keep their relationship relatively quiet on social media, McLaughlin has a single snap of her boyfriend, Andre Levrone Jr., on her Instagram feed. The caption? "... but when he loves me".
Levrone Jr. is a former NFL wide receiver who retired from professional football in 2020. He played for the Ravens, Panthers, and Jaguars during his career.
She was the youngest U.S. track and field athlete at the Rio Games.
At just 16 years old, McLaughlin was dubbed a prodigy when she became the youngest athlete on the U.S. track and field team at the 2016 Rio Olympics. She was also the youngest American Olympian since 1976. Leading up to the Games, she'd broken the World Junior record three different times in the 400m hurdles.
“I don’t think anyone expected me to make the team," she told L’OFFICIEL. "It really did feel like luck at the time, so there were no expectations at all. I was just there to do my best and represent New Jersey, my family, and my country the best I could.”
Though the teen would go on to place 17th—which she said was due to being "fearful and nervous and anxious"—she spent one season at the University of Kentucky where she became NCAA champion of the 400m hurdles. McLaughlin then went pro. She's now coached by Bob Kersee, who trained famed Olympic gold medalist Jackie Joyner-Kersee.
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