Sydney McLaughlin was born to be a track star, but her entire family has known that for years. Her father, Willie McLaughlin, told MileSplit USA, “All of our kids are fairly talented. But [Sydney’s] a little special. We saw it coming. It was just a matter of time.”
Sydney McLaughlin is more than “a little special,” and there is no doubt about that. At only 20 years old, she’s already broken several track records, competed in the Olympics, attended college as a full-time student, and won several awards.
McLaughlin’s serious running career started in high school. She broke records as a 14-year-old high school freshman. She was .21 seconds off from beating the reigning NCAA champion’s 400-meter hurdle pace.
McLaughlin landed in Rio two years later for the 2016 Olympics as the youngest U.S. Olympian to compete in track and field since 1972. During the Olympic Track and Field Trials where McLauglin qualified for Rio, she broke the World Junior record in the 400-meter hurdles with a time of 54.15 seconds. She broke it again the following year with a time of 54.03 seconds, and again two weeks after that during the USATF Outdoor Track and Field Championship with a time of 53.82.
McLaughlin told Letsrun.com after the event that “it was a fast race,” and she was happy with her performance. With a smile on her face she gave credit to her competitors saying, “I knew these women were going to go fast out of [lanes] one, two and three.”
She broke the 400-meter hurdle again in 2018 with a time of 53.60 seconds.
McLauglin spent one season at the University of Kentucky and ended the season as the NCAA champion in 400-meter hurdles. She left Kentucky to pursue her dreams as a full-time professional athlete. Because of her performances before going pro, she won the International Amaetur Athletic Federation Rising Star award in 2018, where she was up against a class of talented athletes across Ethiopia, Kenya, and Jamaica.
While McLauglin waited until 2021 to compete for Olympic gold, she’s used her time off from competition to train harder. She told The Guardian, “This just gives us more time to prepare mentally and physically.”
At the Tokyo Games, McLaughlin won gold in both the 400-meter hurdles and the 4×400-meter relay.
McLaughlin is not only a young track sensation, but also a generational talent. She is humble, motivated, and driven to put her best foot forward with every step she takes, and every leap she bounces over a hurdle.
As for her career, she says, “I feel like I’m halfway through my story, but technically it’s just starting. It’s really motivating to know that we’ve done this, and there’s still so much more to do.”
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