EUGENE: Sydney McLaughlin underscored her status as favourite to add a world championship gold to her Olympic 400m hurdles crown on Wednesday as she motored into a final showdown with USA team-mate and defending champion Dalilah Muhammad.
McLaughlin, who bettered her own world record at the US trials last month, looks more than capable of another world mark in Eugene after her imperious performance in the semi-finals.
The 22-year-old coasted through her semi-final in a blistering time of 52.17sec, which was only 0.01 sec outside Muhammad’s then-world record-winning time from the 2019 world championship final in Doha.
McLaughlin, who dethroned Muhammad as Olympic champion at the Tokyo Olympics last year in an epic battle, could now snatch her old rival’s world crown in Friday’s final.
“It’s going to be a great race, I know that for sure,” said McLaughlin as she looked ahead to the final.
“There’s always more to work on, I just wanted to feel the pace and get ready for Friday. Just giving it all I have and leaving it all on the track.” Muhammad meanwhile was equally impressive in her semi-final, obliterating the field in a statement performance that suggested she is unlikely to surrender her title without a fight.
The 32-year-old finished nearly 10 metres clear of her nearest rival in her semi-final in a season’s best time of 53.28sec.
Muhammad set off at a furious pace, overtaking Ukraine’s Anna Ryzhykova after just 75 meters and then pouring it on down the home straight for a comfortable win.
“I just was following my coach’s orders. First round he said take it easy, and today he said run a second faster,” Muhammad said. “That’s what I was going for. I’m happy with that performance, it felt pretty easy.
“I’m in a good spot if 53 (seconds) feels easy,” she said.
Muhammad said she was excited by the prospect of another duel with McLaughlin.
“It’s always a fast final in these 400 hurdles over the past couple of years and I know this race will be just like those other too,” she said. “I’m excited about it.”
Femke Bol of the Netherlands looks best placed to prevent a USA 1-2 in Friday’s final.
The Dutch star qualified for the final second fastest in 52.84sec.