Sydney McLaughlin clears 10th and last hurdle on way to stunning world record at World Athletics Championships in Oregon. Photo by Chris Stone
In 1974, when I was a sophomore track walk-on at the University of Kansas, I took smug satisfaction that my best time in the one-lap hurdles was superior to the women’s world record.
Krystyna Kacperczyk of Poland ran 56.51 seconds for the 400-meter event that summer. My personal record: 56.1.
When I eye-witnessed Nawal El Moutawakel of Morocco win the long hurdles during its Olympic debut at the 1984 Los Angeles Games, I was chagrined to see the 22-year-old go much faster — 54.61 (albeit over 30-inch hurdles; my 10 barriers were 36 inches high).
Now how should I feel upon seeing another 22-year-old — New Jersey native Sydney McLaughlin — collapse the world record Friday to 50.68? (See results here.)
Road running expert David Monti overheard my shouted reaction, and tweeted it accurately: “That’s better than Beamon!”
50.68 for @GoSydGo!!!
“That’s better than Beamon,” @KenStoneMedia just said.#WCHOregon22
— David Monti (@d9monti) July 23, 2022
The media had been admonished before the World Athletics Championships in Eugene, Oregon, not to show national preference or make any outbursts.
I think I’ll be forgiven.
Bob Beamon, who is at this meet, was sainted for long jumping 29 feet 2 1/2 inches at the 1968 Mexico City Games — far past the then world record of 27-4 1⁄2.
Now the experts on the Track & Field News message boards are saying McLaughlin’s mark deserves its own adjective.
Beamon’s jump should now be described as Sydney-esque, one said.
Others rushed to react.
- “That was SICK.”
- “Reeeeeeediculous! What in the world?”
- “INCREDIBLE….ONE OF THE ALL TIME GREATEST PERFORMANCES!!!!”
- “Im speechless. That is the truth. Im absolutely speechless.”
For the first time, noted one, the ratio of hurdles to flat world records is now lower for women than for the men — 6.47% to 6.76%.
“The women’s event has fully matured,” he said.
Another said: “I think Beamonesque is the closest analogy. Except that I feel SM is more likely to do even better in the future than Beamon ever was.”
And finally: “They say Elvis left the building. Actually Beamon left the building on this one.”
McLaughlin delivered on expectations by setting her second world record of 2022 and fourth in the past 14 months.
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Sydney McLaughlin slapped her face before starting her record run in lane 5. Photo by Chris Stone Sydney McLaughlin clears 10th and last hurdle on way to stunning world record at World Athletics Championships in Oregon. Photo by Chris Stone Sydney McLaughlin, speeding to finish, immediately provoked predictions of her lowering flat 400 world record. Photo by Chris Stone Sydney McLaughlin crosses finish line to set the first world record of the 2022 World Athletics Championships. Photo by Chris Stone As silver medalist Femke Bol of Holland recovers behind her, Sydney McLaughlin is congratulated by U.S. teammate Britton Wilson, who took fifth. Photo by Chris Stone Femke Bol of Holland embraces Sydney McLaughlin as bronze medalist Dalilah Muhammad awaits her turn. Photo by Chris Stone Sydney McLaughlin, wearing her gold medal, salutes crowd at Hayward Field. Photo by Chris Stone Sydney McLaughlin has more records in the tank, including the 400-meter dash, some said. Photo by Chris Stone
Before the final at 7:50 p.m., 100-meter gold medalist Fred Kerley tweeted his prediction for McLaughlin: 50.8 seconds.
Even he underestimated the young lady coached by Bobby Kersee, the same L.A. gent who earlier guided sprints legend Florence “FloJo” Griffith-Joyner, San Diego Olympic champion Gail Devers and his wife — heptathlon superstar Jackie Joyner-Kersee.
SYDNEY MCLAUGHLIN SETS NEW WORLD RECORD @HighlightHER@GoSydGo records a 50.68s time to secure the World 400M Hurdles gold
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) July 23, 2022
Trying to put 50.68 into perspective, others quickly noted that McLaughlin’s mark would have taken seventh in the women’s 400-meter dash final held only 35 minutes earlier.
Her time — over hurdles — ranks among the top 20 this season in the world for the flat lap (with no hurdles).
As recently as 1953, her time would effectively have been a men’s world record.
A poster on the T&FN message board noted: “Sydney covered the last 100m with hurdles in 13.66!!?? Only Paulino and Shaunae covered their last 100m faster WITHOUT hurdles in 13.50 in the 400m final!!”
That 0.73 jump from 51.41 to 50.68 is the biggest single improvement in a women's 400m hurdles world record since 1977 when Tatyana Storozheva broke the first ever world record (56.51) with 55.74.
— Jon Mulkeen (@Statman_Jon) July 23, 2022
On the unofficial Mercier-Rioux Scoring Tables, 50.68 is equivalent to a men’s 400 hurdles time of 45.2 seconds. (The actual men’s world record is 45.94 by Norway’s Karsten Warholm at the Tokyo Olympics.)
For her efforts, McLaughlin was immediately awarded $100,000.
That prompted one wag to write: “I got excited to see the $100,000 check, then realized the Saudis just gave a washed up, can never win again, golfer $175 million to play silly golf 8 times a year on TV. Sad.”
I’ve shaken hands with novelist Ken Kesey, interviewed Wilt Chamberlain and had my head rubbed by the Dalai Lama. Those were pedestrian moments by comparison.
Now I’ve seen a true Wonder Woman explode limits for her or any other sex.