It’s not hyperbole to say that Sydney McLaughlin‘s 400m hurdles final at the 2022 World Championships will go down as one the most impressive performances in track and field history.
McLaughlin, the reigning Olympic champion, ran a jaw-dropping 50.68 seconds to win her first individual world championship title and break the women’s 400m hurdles world record for a fourth time in 13 months. (Video of the women’s 400m hurdles final is embedded above.)
“She was so far in front at the end that I was almost doubting if I really had a good race,” said silver medalist Femke Bol of the Netherlands. “And then I saw the time and I was like, ‘Wow, that explains a lot.'”
“We thought we’d be able to go a little bit faster (than 50.68),” McLaughlin told NBC Sports’ Lewis Johnson. “But we’re super grateful with that time. Anything under 51 was a win for us.”
Back at 2019 Worlds, McLaughlin claimed silver in what would have been a new world record time, if not for U.S. teammate Dalilah Muhammad, who finished 0.07 seconds ahead of her.
Since then, it’s been all McLaughlin. She broke the 400m hurdles world record for the first time at U.S. Olympic Trials in 2021 (51.90), then again at the Tokyo Olympics (51.46), and then again at U.S. Championships in June (51.41).
Muhammad, the defending world champ, won bronze in 53.13, while fellow Americans Shamier Little (53.76) and Britton Wilson (54.02) placed fourth and fifth, respectively.
“I’m having mixed emotions, to be honest,” said Muhammad, who dealt with a hamstring injury in the lead-up to Worlds. “I’m definitely happy to get a medal. I went into these championships on (a streak) of always having a medal at a championships… and I really wanted to keep that going even through the injuries. But as a competitor, you always want more.”
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McLaughlin’s newest world record time would have ranked her seventh in the women’s 400m flat in Eugene, which also had its final on Friday night. And it seems possible that event could be McLaughlin’s next move.
“Me and (Coach Bobby Kersee) are going to go back after the season, decide if (the 400m hurdles) is still an event I even want to do, or if we’re going to find something else because I think we’ve accomplished so much in it,” McLaughlin said. “It could be (the flat 400m). Anything is possible.”
The NBC Sports research team contributed to this story.
Follow Alex Azzi on Twitter @AlexAzziNBC