Events Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone and Athing Mu will run at world championships set

Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone smiles as she catches her breath after winning the women's 400 meter final.
Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone smiles as she catches her breath after winning the women’s 400 meter final during the U.S. track and field championships in Eugene, Ore., on July 8.
(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone and Athing Mu, whose potential to compete in multiple events has made them some of the world’s most successful track and field athletes, will enter one event apiece at August’s world track and field championships, their coach Bobby Kersee told The Times — with McLaughlin-Levrone racing the 400 meters and Mu the 800, he said.

For McLaughlin-Levrone, 23, the reigning Olympic and world champion in the 400-meter hurdles, and the only woman to run under 51 seconds, it will mark a departure, perhaps only temporary, from the event she has made her signature. Last week when McLaughlin-Levrone, who trains along with Mu as part of the Los Angeles-based Formula Kersee group, posted history’s 10th-fastest time of 48.74 while winning U.S. title in the open 400, it again raised the question that has persisted since last summer of whether she would attempt to win gold in both this season.

“The double does not allow us, I think, the proper amount of time and recovery to do both and I think the bigger challenge would obviously be to see how we can do in the 400,” Kersee said Wednesday. “We won our nationals, which is hard to win and we did it in good fashion, so I think that we want to continue moving forward with the challenge.”


Asked whether competing in the 400-meter hurdles is still part of McLaughlin-Levrone’s future, Kersee said it’s “still part of the plan in terms of my future of coaching her.”

Bobby Kersee has helped transform Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone, Athing Mu and many others into champion runners — and he shows no signs of slowing down.

May 26, 2023

“I think the 400 meter is a new event that we knew we were capable of competing at a high level and she’s showing that she can,” he said. “We might as well continue the journey in my opinion that way. By no means does that mean we’re giving up the 400 hurdles or whatever goals we might have in the future toward being an Olympic champion again in the 400-meter hurdles or challenging the world record in the 400-meter hurdles or what have you.”

Mu, the Olympic champion in 2021 and world champion last year in the 800 meters, had also qualified in the 1,500 meters at last week’s U.S. championships in Eugene, Ore., by running a 13-second personal best. Kersee said it made more sense to defend her 800 title because Mu hadn’t had much time to run 1,500-meter races this season.

Athing Mu competes in the women's 1500 meter competition during the U.S. track and field championships.
Athing Mu competes in the women’s 1500 meter competition during the U.S. track and field championships in Eugene, Ore., on July 6.
(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

Kersee expressed disappointment that the tight schedule of the world championships, held Aug. 19-27 in Hungary, was a factor in holding both McLaughlin-Levrone and Mu to one event each. World Athletics, the sport’s global governing body, helps set its championship schedule. Qualifying for the world-championship final in the 400 and 400 hurdles would require McLaughlin-Levrone to run six races between Aug. 20-24. The women’s 1,500 has rounds on Aug. 19, 20 and 22, while the 800 has rounds on Aug. 23, 25 and 27.

“I’m kind of disappointed in both, whether it be the Olympic organizing committee or whether it be World Athletics or USA Track & Field, in our case, that they’ve allowed in the past 400 and 800 doubles, 8 and 15 doubles, 200 and 400 doubles, and that’s been on the record books,” Kersee said. “So I think if you’ve got athletes that are capable of doing that and you’ve done it in the past, then I think in fairness that the heads of those organizations should look back in the ’70s and ’80s and the ’90s and say well, if we allowed it to happen one time and we got athletes again, wouldn’t it be fair to also look at giving these athletes of this new group those same challenges, as well as maybe a unique double of the 400 meters and the 400-meter hurdles?”


Coach Bobby Kersee discusses the futures of Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone and Athing Mu, who might compete in two events each at world track championships.

July 9, 2023

McLaughlin-Levrone is currently listed among the entries in the 400 meters at a July 21 meet in Monaco, and should her training continue well Kersee expects her to race there in a tune-up. There is a possibility, he said, that Mu will not race between now and the world championships.