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The Secrets of Sydney McLaughlin's World Record

The American shattered history in the 400 meter hurdles with an incredible record: 50.68 seconds.

"What's wrong, Sydney? Are you ok?", the coaches, the volunteers, the journalists repeated in the mixed zone when it had been 45 minutes, maybe an hour, that he had rewritten history. "Yes, yes, I'm ok," replied Sydney McLaughlinand added an explanation: "I'm just trying to assimilate the lactate." An eternity after shattering her own 400m hurdles world record (50.68 seconds), the American was still knocked out by her own body, dizzy, even disoriented; certainly her later speech was not congruent. When it came to thanking those who had helped her success, she even named the AirBnB that her family rented in Eugene and that made them all together in the stands of Hayward Field. "When I won the Tokyo Games I was alone and here I have been able to enjoy it with them", she commented, although she did not forget who, according to her, has marked her life: "I am grateful to the Lord, all my glory is for God".

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Extremely believer, educated at the Catholic Union Institute of Scotch Plains, in New Jersey, of athlete parents, Olympians in the 1984 Los Angeles Games, McLaughlin exemplified with his world record the two revolutions that athletics is experiencing these days. The first, technical, with carefully studied details such as the fence pass or the frequency between fence and fence. And the second and most important technology, with those carbon fiber plate shoes that have changed everything. In no other event than in the 400 meter hurdles has this innovation influenced so much because it multiplies the impulses both when jumping and when landing and because it reduces the musculoskeletal wear of the impacts. Until yesterday it was considered that the gain of this shoe could reach 1%; Now those studies will have to be reviewed.

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McLaughlin, who wears a New Balance model exclusive to her, with a fiber plate and ultra-reactive foam, shot through the first 100 meters and the final stretch, where she should have felt the fatigue, kept up the pace. After crossing the finish line at Hayward Field in Eugene, yes, she sat on the tartan with her knees drawn up and there she stayed one, two, three, four, five minutes. Everything happened around her: her rivals congratulated her, the public applauded her, her pet made jokes, the photographers claimed her, the organization fretted... and McLaughlin stood there, paralyzed by lactate and the whole night. "My timing is absolutely incredible and now I just have to figure out what other barriers can be broken. I'll be faster," she commented and now it's hard to think she'll make it.


His record already seems like one of those forever. Florence Griffith Joyner in the 100 and 200 meters; Marita Koch in the 400; Jarmila Kratochvilova in the 800 meters... For various reasons, many of them obscure, there is no one who can improve those records and McLaughlin is already at that level. Any assessment of the 400 meter hurdles has been outdated. To understand it, numbers are required: the previous record, also his, from this June, was almost a second slower (51.41); in 2019 the record was above 52 seconds (52.16) and McLaughlin has presented it to the 50-second barrier...

With the rivalry with his compatriot Dalilah Muhammad as a spring, last year he exceeded the border of 52 seconds (51.90 meters), destroyed it with his gold at the Tokyo Games (51.46 meters) and this year in the Trials he went for more (51.41 meters). The stakes were on whether she would be able to top herself again, but no one expected her to fly. A curiosity to better understand her exhibition: McLaughlin would have finished seventh in the women's final of the 400-meter dash, without hurdles, this Friday. "I'll ask my coach for the next goal. I don't want to celebrate until all the work is done," she finished in the mixed zone, still lost, still beaten by her own body.

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