Monaco, July 29, 2019: The men’s 400m hurdles has been the biggest talking point within athletics for the past 18 months, but now – with 60 days to go to the IAAF World Athletics Championships Doha 2019 – the women’s event has been thrust into the spotlight (Dalilah Muhammad Olympic champion).
Olympic champion Dalilah Muhammad produced the performance of her life to break the world 400m hurdles record (pending ratification) on the final day of the US Championships in Des Moines on Sunday (28), clocking 52.20 to clip 0.14 from the previous mark set 16 years ago by Yuliya Pechonkina.
While the record may have been a surprise to many fans, Muhammad’s coach, Lawrence Johnson, knew it was only a matter of time before it fell.
“My coach kept telling me it was there,” said Muhammad, whose previous best was 52.64, set at the 2017 US Championships. “I just had to trust him and go for it. I wanted it so bad, I knew I had to go out there and prove myself.
“Funny enough, I got a little injured like two weeks ago,” she added. “I had a crazy fall and so we’ve kind of been shutting down. It’s just one of those things that you’re just hoping for the best… I just trusted in what we had been working on at this point.”
Muhammad will be joined on the US team for the World Championships by world U20 record-holder Sydney McLaughlin – the one athlete to have beaten Muhammad over the past year – and Olympic bronze medallist Ashley Spencer.
They may also be joined by defending champion Kori Carter or potentially someone else, should the Diamond League title be won by another US woman not currently on the team. In that case, the allocation of the wildcard will rest with USA Track and Field.
Whichever four women represent USA in the 400m hurdles at the IAAF World Championships, they will be out to show that it’s not just the men’s event that will be worth watching in Doha.
Profile: Dalilah Muhammad Olympic champion
Born: 7 February 1990. Coach: Lawrence Johnson.
Twelve years after first making an impact on the global stage, Dalilah Muhammad continues to go from strength to strength.
She won the world U18 title back in 2007, following in the footsteps of Jana Pittman and Zuzana Hejnova, who both went on to become two-time senior world champions in the event. But it took a number of years before Muhammad started to live up to that early promise.
Three weeks after her collegiate career concluded, Muhammad competed at the 2012 US Olympic Trials but finished sixth in her heat, two seconds shy of her season’s best. She knew something had to change and she started working with Yolanda Rich Demus, mother of 2011 world champion LaShinda Demus.
After relocating, Muhammad initially found the training load difficult, but she soon adapted. In her first few races of 2013, she knew she had made the right decision as she set four successive PBs, chopping her best time from 56.04 to 54.66.
“Breaking my PB of 56.04 was such a defining moment in my career,” she says. “It felt so easy, like I wasn’t even trying. But I also made mistakes in that race – like chopping badly at hurdle seven – which encouraged me to believe I could run so much faster in the future.”
She won the US title later that year in another PB, 53.83, and went on to take the silver medal at the IAAF World Championships in Moscow.
After missing most of 2014 with a virus and cutting her 2015 season short due to a knee injury, she returned to action in 2016 under the tutelage of Lawrence Johnson. Thriving under the new coaching set-up, she clocked a world-leading 52.88 to win the US Olympic Trials, making her one of the favourites for the Olympic title. She lived up to the expectation in Rio and won gold in 53.13.
The highlight of her 2017 season came when winning her third national title in what was the greatest standard 400m hurdles race in history. With three women finishing inside 53 seconds and the top six going sub-54, Muhammad once again came out on top, recording a lifetime best of 52.64.
Just two weeks later, though, she hurt her hamstring and so wasn’t at her best at the IAAF World Championships in London but still managed to come away with the silver medal behind US team-mate Kori Carter.
Last year was a non-championship season for Muhammad, but she won when it mattered most and claimed the Diamond League title in Zurich.
A trio of 400m PBs at the start of 2019, topped by 50.60, showed Muhammad was in great form this season. She won her specialist event at the IAAF Diamond League meetings in Doha and Rome and was only narrowly beaten by Sydney McLaughlin in Oslo.
And while Dalilah Muhammad Olympic champion didn’t necessarily need to run a world record to secure her spot on the US team, the 29-year-old has shown that she is the world No.1 heading into the IAAF World Athletics Championships Doha 2019 and beyond.
Muhammad’s 400m hurdles progression
400m hurdles world record progression
56.51 Krystyna Kacperczyk (POL) Augsberg 1974
55.74 Tatyana Storozheva (URS) Chemnitz 1977
55.63 Karin Rossley (GDR) Helsinki 1977
55.44 Krystyna Kacperczyk (POL) Berlin 1978
55.31 Tatyana Zelentsova (URS) Podolsk 1978
54.89 Tatyana Zelentsova (URS) Prague 1978
54.78 Marina Makeyeva (URS) Moscow 1979
54.28 Karin Rossley (GDR) Jena 1980
54.02 Anna Ambraziene (URS) Moscow 1983
53.58 Margarita Ponomaryova (URS) Kiev 1984
53.55 Sabine Busch (GDR) Berlin 1985
53.32 Marina Stepanova (URS) Stuttgart 1986
52.94 Marina Stepanova Tashkent 1986
52.74 Sally Gunnell (GBR) Stuttgart 1993
52.61 Kim Batten (USA) Gothenburg 1995
52.34 Yuliya Pechonkina (RUS) Tula 2003
52.20 Dalilah Muhammad (USA) Des Moines 2019. —- IAAF