The men’s 400m hurdles has been the biggest talking point within athletics for the past 18 months, but now – with 60 days to go to the IAAF World Athletics Championships Doha 2019 – the women’s event has been thrust into the spotlight.
Olympic champion Dalilah Muhammad produced the performance of her life to break the world 400m hurdles record (pending ratification) on the final day of the US Championships in Des Moines on Sunday (28), clocking 52.20 to clip 0.14 from the previous mark set 16 years ago by Yuliya Pechonkina.
While the record may have been a surprise to many fans, Muhammad’s coach, Lawrence Johnson, knew it was only a matter of time before it fell.
“My coach kept telling me it was there,” said Muhammad, whose previous best was 52.64, set at the 2017 US Championships. “I just had to trust him and go for it. I wanted it so bad, I knew I had to go out there and prove myself.
“Funny enough, I got a little injured like two weeks ago,” she added. “I had a crazy fall and so we've kind of been shutting down. It's just one of those things that you're just hoping for the best... I just trusted in what we had been working on at this point.”
Muhammad will be joined on the US team for the World Championships by world U20 record-holder Sydney McLaughlin – the one athlete to have beaten Muhammad over the past year – and Olympic bronze medallist Ashley Spencer.
They may also be joined by defending champion Kori Carter or potentially someone else, should the Diamond League title be won by another US woman not currently on the team. In that case, the allocation of the wildcard will rest with USA Track and Field.
Whichever four women represent USA in the 400m hurdles at the IAAF World Championships, they will be out to show that it’s not just the men’s event that will be worth watching in Doha.
Elsewhere at the US Championships, world champion Sam Kendricks broke the North American record to win the pole vault with 6.06m, moving him to second on the world outdoor all-time list. DeAnna Price also broke a North American record, throwing a world-leading 78.24m to win the hammer.
Other highlights in Des Moines included Fred Kerley’s surprise 400m win over Michael Norman, 43.64 to 43.79, Noah Lyles’ 200m victory in 19.78, distance doubles from Lopez Lomong and Shelby Houlihan, and Ryan Crouser’s 22.62m triumph in the shot put.
National titles for Miller-Uibo, Stefanidi and Spotakova
The USA was one of many countries to host their national championships on what was a busy weekend of international athletics action.
Olympic 400m champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo produced the standout performance of the Bahamian Championships in Nassau, clocking a Bahamian all-comers’ record of 49.59 to comfortably win over one lap of the track.
World and Olympic pole vault champion Katerina Stefanidi cleared a season’s best of 4.83m to highlight the Greek Championships in Patras, while multiple world and Olympic champion Barbora Spotakova won her 13th title in the javelin at the Czech Championships, throwing 63.14m.
Stefano Sottile, the 2015 world U18 champion, cleared a world-leading PB of 2.33m to headline the Italian Championships in Bressanone.
World record-holder Renaud Lavillenie scaled a season’s best of 5.85m to win the pole vault at the French Championships, where Wilhem Belocian won a competitive 110m hurdles title in a wind-assisted 13.14.
Andrius Gudzius geared up for the defence of his world discus crown by winning at the Lithuanian Championships in Palanda with a season’s best of 67.73m. Edis Matusevicius impressed in the javelin with a national record of 89.17m.
Outside of national championships action, one particular highlight was Michal Haratyk’s Polish shot put record of 22.32m in Warsaw, the best throw by a European shot putter for 31 years.
With national teams now starting to take shape, much of the next 60 days for the world’s best athletes will be spent fine-tuning their form ahead of the IAAF World Athletics Championships Doha 2019 where they hope to improve on what they have already achieved so far this year.