“I wouldn’t have a 52.2 without her, she wouldn’t have a 52.16 without me” says Sydney McLaughlin on her rivalry with Dalilah Muhammad, the reigning world and Olympic champion. In that record-breaking race in Doha 2019 we witnessed two athletes pushing each other not only for the world title, but taking women’s 400m hurdles to new heights.
As gripping a rivalry as it is, it’s also imbalanced. Muhammad is a decade older than McLaughlin, has dominated the head-to-heads (6-2), and remains the world record holder. McLaughlin has time and immense talent on her side, recently stating that she wants to put together the “perfect race” emulating Edwin Moses with an ambitious stride pattern. “No woman has run it with 15 strides between each hurdle. That’s what a perfect race looks like.” (Moses achieved a 13-stride pattern.)
Whether McLaughlin will stick to the 400m hurdles long term remains to be seen, but Muhammad has kept her waiting for a global title. It’s a hotly anticipated head-to-head for Tokyo 2021—but both need to successfully navigate the US trials first. We may get a glimpse of who might be taking the Olympic crown this summer.