TOKYO — The 400-meter hurdles has proved to be the marquee event on the track so far at the Tokyo Olympics.
U.S. runner Sydney McLaughlin surged from behind in the final stretch to break her own world record and take Olympic gold. Less than 24 hours earlier, the world record was smashed in the men's event.
The women's race pitted the world record holder against the defending gold medalist. Both are U.S. athletes. McLaughlin, 21, previously broke the world record in June at U.S. Olympic trials. It was the first time a woman has broken 52 seconds in the event. On Wednesday, she clocked 51.46.
"It's just the flood of emotions that you don't know how to process," McLaughlin said after the race.
Dalilah Muhammad, the 31-year-old former world record holder, won gold in this event at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games. She took silver in Tokyo with her fastest time ever, 51.58.
McLaughlin said racing Muhammad makes them both better. "I think that's really just iron sharpening iron. You know, you need somebody who's going to push you to be your best. And I think that's what we do so well."
She said she doesn't consider it a rivalry: "There's no bad blood. I think it's two athletes wanting to be their best and knowing that there's another great girl who's going to help you get there"
Muhammad said her years of experience help her put the silver medal into perspective. "I'm truly proud of second place and yes, to come home with silver after breaking a world record ... it could be mixed emotions, but right now I truly don't feel that way. I'm truly proud of it," Muhammad said.
After the race, the two women hugged each other warmly.
The bronze went to Dutch runner Femke Bol.
The 400-meter hurdles is really having a moment at these Games.
The men's final event was also a matchup against two of the fastest men to ever run the race.
Norway's Karsten Warholm smashed his own world record by about three-quarters of a second. And Rai Benjamin of the U.S. was right behind him with a time that was also faster than the previous world record.
McLaughlin said watching the men's race "sparked a little bit of energy and adrenaline, for sure."
"It's cool to be a part of this next generation of athletes pushing the boundaries of what's possible."