Sydney McLaughlin roared back after the final set of barriers to capture 400m hurdles gold Wednesday in Tokyo, shaving nearly a half-second off her own world record from U.S. Trials in 51.46 and dethroning defending title-winner and teammate Dalilah Muhammad as Olympic champion.
Muhammad, also the reigning world gold medalist, hung on for silver in a personal-best 51.58, also well below McLaughlin's previous all-time best of 51.90.
Rising star Femke Bol of the Netherlands, who entered the race fourth-fastest in history, captured bronze in 52.03 to pass Russian Yulia Pechonkina for the No. 3 spot.
After finishing second to a pair of Muhammad's world record-breaking races at the 2019 U.S. Championships and World Championships, McLaughlin finally answered back at U.S. Olympic Trials in 2021 with one of her own in 51.90, becoming the first 400m hurdler to go sub-52.
She made her Olympic debut as a 17-year-old prodigy at the 2016 Rio Games, becoming the youngest U.S. track and field Olympian in 44 years, but had an early exit in the semis.
After finishing high school, the Dunellen, New Jersey, native attended the University of Kentucky before turning pro.
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Under first coach Joanna Hayes, the 2004 Olympic 100m hurdles champion, she won a silver medal at the 2019 World Championships behind Muhammad.
But near the start of this year she announced a transition to work under Bobby Kersee, husband of six-time Olympic medalist Jackie Joyner-Kersee, and longtime coach of Allyson Felix.
After a season with several high-hurdle races, presumably chosen by Kersee to increase McLaughlin's speed, she waited until early June to lace up for her first 400m hurdles race of 2021.
Muhammad's silver matches Deon Hemmings for most medals in the event with two — the Jamaican won gold at the 1996 Atlanta Games and silver at the 2000 Sydney Games.
Men’s event gold medalist Norwegian Karsten Warholm also shattered his own world record Tuesday, clocking a 45.94 to win a final in which nearly the entire field set personal bests.
Both McLaughlin and Muhammad could be chosen to compete on the U.S. women's 4x400m relay team.