With one eye on the IAAF World Athletics Championships Doha 2019 and the other on the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, over the course of the next two weeks – Monday through Friday – we'll highlight the rise of a new generation, 10 exciting prospects under the age of 21 who are set to become stars of the sport over the next few years.
Our series continues with USA's Sydney McLaughlin, the world U20 record holder in the 400m hurdles and IAAF Female Rising Star of 2018.
Profile: Sydney McLaughlin
It has taken a few years, but athletics fans have learned to expect the unexpected from Sydney McLaughlin.
The US all-round sprint talent has been breaking records since 2014 and shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, her most recent season was arguably her best yet.
Before starting college in 2017, McLaughlin had already made her mark as one of the USA’s best ever high school athletes. She set her first world age bests in 2014 at 14 years of age, clocking 13.34 in the senior height 100m hurdles.
One month later she clocked 55.63 in the 400m hurdles at the 2014 US Junior Championships but, at 14, was too young to compete at the World U20 Championships that year. Her time at the US Junior Championships ended up being 0.03 quicker than the winning time at the World U20 Championships.
She improved to 55.28 in 2015 and went on to win the 400m hurdles title at the IAAF World U18 Championships Cali 2015, her first global title.
Her progress continued in 2016 and she set a world U18 best and world U20 record of 54.15 to finish third at the US Olympic Trials, booking her spot on the national team for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Eventually finishing fifth in her semi-final, she became the youngest US athlete to compete in a track and field event at the Olympics since 1972.
She reduced her world U20 record to 53.82 in 2017 and improved further in 2018, her first season as a collegiate athlete, clocking 53.60 and 52.75 (pending ratification).
Having now completed her final year in the U20 ranks, McLaughlin owns 10 of the 11 fastest 400m hurdles times in history by an U20 athlete and is 1.65 seconds faster than the second-fastest U20 athlete ever.
10 facts about McLaughlin
1. She comes from a family of athletes
Her father, Willie, was a 400m semi-finalist at the 1984 US Olympic Trials and had a PB of 45.30. Her mother, Mary, ran in high school. Her brother, Taylor, took the silver medal in the 400m hurdles at the IAAF World U20 Championships Bydgoszcz 2016 and has a PB of 49.10.
2. She was an early starter
She started athletics at the age of six. She now holds nine world age bests across a range of events.
3. Her family keeps her grounded
“My parents help me manage everything, like the outside expectations and the expectations I put on myself,” she says.
4. If she wasn’t an athlete, she could be in a circus
She can juggle with clubs and ride a unicycle. She can even do both at the same time.
5. She used to train with three global champions
Under her previous coach, Edrick Floreal, McLaughlin trained alongside Olympic 110m hurdles champion Omar McLeod, world indoor 60m hurdles champion Kendra Harrison and world 400m hurdles champion Kori Carter. “It’s great to be able to have them push me and to have them there to give me advice,” says McLaughlin, who is now coached by another global champion, 2004 Olympic gold medallist Joanna Hayes.
6. She was part of the deepest 400m hurdles race in history.
McLaughlin, aged just 17 at the time, set a (since improved upon) world U20 record of 53.82 at the 2017 US Championships. That would have been enough to win most other national championships, but on this occasion it was ‘just’ good enough for sixth place as five other women finished inside 54 seconds and three finished inside 53 seconds.
7. If she could have one superpower…
She’d be able to fly.
8. She was the fastest U20 athlete in the world in six different events in 2018
The indoor 200m (22.68), outdoor 200m (22.39), indoor 300m (36.12), indoor 400m (50.36), outdoor 400m (50.07) and 400m hurdles (52.75). Oh, and she also clocked a wind-assisted 11.07 in the 100m.
9. She already holds a senior world best
McLaughlin ran the 400m leg on the team that set a world best in the distance medley relay at the 2017 New Balance Indoor Grand Prix. Teaming up with Emma Coburn, Jenny Simpson and Brenda Martinez, the then 17-year-old ran 52.32 for her leg as the squad finished in 10:40.31.
10. One thing she couldn’t live without…
McLaughlin’s world records and bests
World age bests
14 – 13.34 (100m hurdles), 55.63 (400m hurdles)
15 – 37.49 (300m indoors), 8.17 (60m hurdles indoors), 55.28 (400m hurdles)
16 – 54.15 (400m hurdles)
17 – 53.82 (400m hurdles)
18 – 36.12 (300m indoors), 52.75 (400m hurdles)
World U18 bests
400m hurdles – 54.15
World U20 records
300m indoors – 36.12 (world U20 best)
400m indoors – 50.36 (pending ratification)
400m hurdles – 53.60 (her 52.75 is pending ratification)