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Dalilah Muhammad, Sydney McLaughlin and Anna Cockrell chasing gold in 400 hurdles

Dalilah Muhammad of the United States races to win a heat in the women's 400-meter hurdles.
Dalilah Muhammad wins a women’s 400-meter hurdles qualifying heat at the Tokyo Olympics on Monday.
(Martin Meissner / Associated Press)

One is an Olympic gold medalist, another a world record-holder and one is an NCAA champion and Olympics newbie.

Dalilah Muhammad, Sydney McLaughlin and Anna Cockrell all will compete for a gold medal when the women’s 400-meter hurdles final is held Wednesday at Olympic Stadium.

All advanced out of rain-soaked semifinals on Monday. The inclement weather did not dampen their excitement about making the final.

“It’s definitely going to be quite a show come finals,” Muhammad said.

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Jasmine Camacho-Quinn’s win in the 100-meter hurdles was a proud moment for many Puerto Ricans, but she was the subject of criticism before the race.

Muhammad, 31, is the most experienced. The former USC All-American won the gold medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics and owned the world record until McLaughlin eclipsed it in June at the U.S. Olympic Trials.

On Monday, Muhammad had no trouble with opponents in her semifinal or with the rain.

“My eyes are burning a little bit,” she said, “but other than that I was OK.”

Muhammad said she was not feeling any pressure as the defending Olympic champion. There is more pressure as a world-record holder, she said.

“You have that much pressure on yourself because you look at yourself as being No. 1, so you want to finish that way,” she said. “The defending champion? That happened four years ago.

“Much time has passed.”

At the Olympic trials in Eugene, Ore., McLaughlin broke Muhammad’s record of 52.16 seconds by finishing in 51.90.

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Sydney Mclaughlin wins a women's 400-meter hurdles heat at the Summer Olympics on Monday.
(Charlie Riedel / Associated Press)

Does she feel any added pressure as the world-record holder?

“It’s one of those things, you acknowledge that it happened, but the job’s not done,” she said. “So just try to be better from there. Improve upon that last race at the trials and see how far I can go.”

McLaughlin easily won her semifinal on Monday.

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“I’m just glad I have waterproof mascara,” she joked.

McLaughlin is competing in her second Olympics. Five years ago, as a 16-year-old, she finished fifth.

U.S. hurdler Anna Cockrell hopes to challenge for gold in the Tokyo Olympics after a decorated collegiate career at USC.

“The first one was kind of just getting experience,” she said. “At 16, I was really just getting a feel for how it all worked and knowing that I can approach it a little bit differently.”

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This is Cockrell’s first Olympics, and she acknowledged after advancing out of the heats on Saturday that she was nervous. After qualifying for the final, she said she was no longer fighting the feeling.

Some athletes have said they eliminate nervousness by approaching the Olympics as just another track meet. Cockrell tried that approach but found it did not work.

“When I got out there and the gravity of it all set in, it was shocking,” she said.

So, she has embraced the importance.

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“I let myself feel, “This is the semifinals of the Olympics. This is a big deal. This is the biggest meet of my life,” she said, “and that’s OK.”

Cockrell said she spoke with her brother, Ross, a Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive back.

“It’s really great to have brother who’s a Super Bowl champion because we can kind of talk about the pressure of being on the biggest stage,” she said.

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Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians turned on all the televisions on Monday so that players and team employees could watch Anna Cockrell compete.

“Oh, man,” she said. “I told myself I’ve got to stop crying in these interviews.”

In addition to Muhammad, McLaughlin and Cockrell, American Gabrielle Thomas advanced to the women’s 200-meters final on Tuesday. Michael Norman and Michael Cherry advanced to the men’s 400-meters final on Thursday.


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