Dalilah Muhammad in the 400m hurdles heats at the IAAF World Championships London 2017 (Getty Images) © Copyright
Preview Doha, Qatar

Preview: women's 400m hurdles - IAAF World Athletics Championships Doha 2019

The women’s 400m hurdles event at the IAAF World Athletics Championships Doha 2019 has a similar dynamic to the women’s 400m, where 21-year-old Salwa Eid Naser will be challenging the established force of Olympic champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo.

In the case of the hurdles, however, the immoveable object is Dalilah Muhammad, the 29-year-old Olympic champion who, at the US Championships in Des Moines, bettered the 2003 world record of 52.34 set by Russia’s Yulia Pechonkina, recording a time of 52.20.

Meanwhile the Naser-figure is the 20-year-old rising star that is Muhammad’s US teammate, Sydney McLaughlin.

McLaughlin came to prominence in 2014 when she clocked a 400m hurdles time of 55.63, a world age-14 best. A year later, in Cali, she won the world U18 title. And a year after that she set a world U20 record of 54.15 in finishing third at the US Olympic Trials. She thus became the youngest US track and field athlete to qualify for an Olympics since 1980, when long jumper Carol Lewis and Denean Howard qualified but were not able to compete because of the US boycott of the Moscow Games.

In March last year, just to emphasise her all-round talent, McLaughlin clocked 50.36, the fastest time ever recorded by an U20 athlete for the indoor 400m, and went on to lower her 400m hurdles personal best to 52.75 before turning professional in October.

This season she has come into her own, winning IAAF Diamond League races in Oslo – where Muhammad finished a shocked second – and Monaco before winning the Diamond League title in Zurich on 1 September with a season’s best of 52.85, the second fastest time of her career.

Second place in 53.86 went to US colleague Shamier Little, who will not be in Doha. Third place, in 54.13, went to Muhammad. Who very much will.

Not that the event will be all about two runners, given the spread of talent that will be present in Qatar.

Muhammad and McLaughlin’s teammate Ashley Spencer is third on this season’s world list with 53.11, and the Czech Republic’s redoubtable 32-year-old competitor Zuzana Hejnova, world champion in 2013 and 2015 and an Olympic bronze medallist in 2012, is one place below on 54.11.

Jamaica’s flag, meanwhile, will be carried by Rushell Clayton, who won at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in London in 54.16, and Commonwealth champion Janieve Russell, who has clocked 54.70 this season.

Denmark’s Sara Slott Petersen, the Olympic silver medallist, could also be a medal contender again, having run 54.89 this year.

Mike Rowbottom for the IAAF