Sydney McLaughlin heads off on her anchor leg, to take the US team to 4x400m victory in Oregon (© Getty Images)
After Sydney McLaughlin’s sizzling 50.68 to win the women’s 400m hurdles, the question on everyone’s minds was: What could she do in a flat 400m?
McLaughlin answered on Sunday (24) during the final track event of the World Athletics Championships Oregon22 with an impressive 47.91 anchor leg to deliver the women’s 4x400 gold medal to the US.
The split was one of the fastest in history as the US team won their 10th gold medal in the event with a world-leading time of 3:17.79, eighth-fastest on the world all-time list and the quickest on US soil.
McLaughlin got the baton with a 0.73 lead and stretched it into a 2.95 cushion, finishing so far ahead that camera shots couldn’t include the other runners in the frame. McLaughlin’s split was the fastest since Allyson Felix ran 47.72 in 2015.
Jamaica placed second in a season's best 3:20.74 and Great Britain was third in 3:22.64, also a season's best.
By running in the first round, Felix increased her World Championships medal haul to a record 20 medals — 14 gold, three silver and three bronze. Six gold medals and a bronze have come from the 4x400m. Felix had hung up her spikes after winning bronze in the mixed 4x400m, which was thought to be the last track race of her career, and was already home when she got the call to run the women's relay. Felix didn’t hesitate to book a ticket back to Eugene.
While McLaughlin is used to running alone by now, she appreciates being part of a team. “Team USA is really like a family,” she said. “Allyson came out of retirement to get us here, so we wanted to do this.”
At the age of 22, McLaughlin is one of the youngest members of the US team, yet she was the oldest on the relay and a veteran from gold-medal-winning squads in 2019 and the Tokyo Olympics.
Dalilah Muhammad, 32, was initially on the start list, but suffered an injury in warm-up and was replaced by Abby Steiner. Steiner, who is about three months younger than McLaughlin, became the first athlete to win gold medals in the 4x100m and 4x400m since Felix in 2017. It was her 57th race of the season.
The lead-off runner was 19-year-old Talitha Diggs, the national champion in the 400m and daughter of four-time Olympian Joetta Clark. Diggs is also the niece of Jearl Miles Clark, who won three gold medals on the 4x400m at the World Championships. With Steiner running the second leg, 21-year-old Britton Wilson, another 400m hurdler, was tapped for the third.
“It was unreal,” McLaughlin said. “We had such a young team. All these girls are from teams out of college. It was put together at the last minute and to see them all come together after such a long collegiate season, I am so grateful to be part of it.”
McLaughlin said there was no better way to end the World Championships for the US, which won 33 medals, the most in history, including 13 gold medals.
“I am so proud,” McLaughlin said. “This is the next generation of Team USA stepping up to the plate. We have to continue pushing the boundaries of what we can do. I am grateful for this opportunity. I have become comfortable and we have a bright future ahead of us.”
The US team claimed their third straight victory in the event and have won seven of the last eight.
“Everyone did their part, as it was phenomenal,” Diggs said. “Three of us are collegiate runners, so I am done for the season.”
Diggs, the NCAA champion from Florida, opened with a 50.50 split, to give the US a 0.09 lead over Great Britain’s Victoria Ohuruogu, younger sister of Christine, the Olympic and world champion. Steiner, who posted a 48.88 split to help Kentucky move from fourth to first at the NCAA Championships, ran 49.99 to extend the lead to 0.17 over Jamaica, which had moved into second. Britton Wilson, who had a 49.56 split for Arkansas in the NCAAs, bettered that with a time of 49.39 to open up a sizable gap.
And then McLaughlin grabbed the baton.
“The crowd was insane,” Wilson said.
The other runners to break 50 seconds were Jamaica's Janieve Russell on the second leg (49.90) and Stephenie Ann McPherson running third (49.95).
“It was an exciting finish and I expected it,” Russell said.
Jamaica won a 10th medal at the World Championships and Great Britain won a ninth, returning to the podium after a fourth-place finish in 2019 snapped a streak of seven straight medals.
British anchor leg Laviai Nielsen said the rest of her team set out the relay very well. “I could not think to lose the position they worked so hard for,” she said. “So I just had to maintain my position and when I saw Jamaica in front of us, I was like: ‘Maybe it is possible to chase them,’ but it was just too big a gap.”
Karen Rosen for World Athletics
|WOMEN'S 4x400m MEDALLISTS|
|🥇||United States 🇺🇸||3:17.79 WL|
|🥈||Jamaica 🇯🇲||3:20.74 SB|
|🥉||Great Britain & NI 🇬🇧||3:22.64 SB|