Dalilah Muhammad was driven every step of the way to improving her women’s 400m hurdles world record here tonight as she won gold in 52.16, a couple of pounding heartbeats ahead of her 20-year-old US rival Sydney McLaughlin.
The latter was rewarded with silver in 52.23 – just three hundredths of a second off Muhammad’s original record – after a performance that hinted at riches to come in future years.
“This means so much,” said 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.
“It’s difficult to describe. I just wanted the world title so much but to break the world record again I fantastic.
“I just decided to go for it from the start and I felt Sydney coming at me around hurdle nine. Then I just gave it everything I’d got. It hasn’t really sunk in yet but it feels good.”
McLaughlin commented: “I knew it would be fast but I didn’t think it would be that fast. I did everything I could and at least US got one-two. I gave it everything I had, I’m still young, and every day is a new experience for me.”
There had been echoes in this match-up of the women’s 400m final of the previous night, with the 29-year-old Muhammad facing a youthful threat as Rio 2016 champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo had with Salwa Eid Naser.
Ever since McLaughlin set a world age-14 best of 55.63 in this event, adding the world youth title a year later, she has been noted for future stardom and nothing she has done since has detracted from that aspiration. This was another huge step upwards for an athlete who only turned professional last October.
But while the struggle was intense, it was the senior athlete who prevailed here, keeping her discipline under extreme pressure, edging ahead in the back straight, bringing a significant lead into the homes straight and defending it to the hilt as her young rival drew ever nearer over the final metres of the race.
And there was no quality cut-off point in this race, as Rushell Clayton claimed bronze in a personal best of 53.74 ahead of Switzerland’s European champion Lea Sprunger, who improved her national record to 54.06.
Double world champion Zuzana Hejnova of the Czech Republic was fifth in 54.23.
“It felt extremely good to run against the best in the world,” Clayton said. “When you compete against them, you become the best in the world too.”
Mike Rowbottom for the IAAF