American Dalilah Muhammad broke her own world record in the 400-meter hurdles Friday night, circling the track in 52.16 seconds at world championships to top the mark she set earlier this year by .04 seconds.
The late-blooming 29-year-old former USC star, who didn’t have a sponsor or a spot at the London Olympics seven years ago, took a smooth-as-silk path around the track to re-write a mark that had gone 15 years without being touched before she did it at the U.S. nationals in July.
She needed every fraction, as her lean into the line was only good enough for a .07-margin over 20-year-old Sydney McLaughlin, whose time of 52.23 would’ve been the world record a mere 10 weeks ago.
“World records are broken when you have such strong talent in the race,” Muhammad said . “I knew it would be a fast race, but not that fast.”
While the rest of the women sprawled onto the track after completing the grueling lap, Muhammad bent over for a second to catch her breath, then went onto the grass to take care of some other business — kneeling to have her picture taken next to the clock near the finish line. “WORLD RECORD,” it said, highlighted in red. Then, the mark that will go down in history — at least for a little while: “52.16.”
Muhammad has been talking about how the 52-second barrier in this event is bound to get broken — if not by her, then by somebody else. It will make her matchup against McLaughlin one of the best ones to watch next year at the Tokyo Olympics.
“Sydney’s young. She’ll be there for the rest of my career,” Muhammad said. “I’m just going to try to go with that, and see what’s possible.”
After her disappointment in 2012, the New York native who went to college at University of Southern California, won a silver medal in 2013, then followed that with a win at the Rio Olympics and another silver at 2017 worlds.
She’ll head into Tokyo as the defending Olympic champion, the defending world champion and the world record holder.
That time, in Des Moines, Iowa, she won it in the rain, with puddles forming on the track.