Picture by 2019 Getty Images

Dalilah Muhammad: The 400m hurdles world and Olympic champion talks doubt and what makes the Olympics special

Here are the five big takeaways from the exclusive interview with the Olympic Channel Podcast
By Ed Knowles

Dalilah Muhammad of the USA is the reigning Olympic and world champion in one of athletics’ most gruelling events – the 400m hurdles.

The performance at the 2019 world championships was iconic – she beat her own world record with time of 52.16 seconds in a tight race with fellow American Sydney McLaughlin.

It makes the 400m hurdles event simply unmissable for Tokyo 2020.

Despite her dominance in the sport, Dalilah wasn’t the most natural of hurdlers when she was a youngster and considered walking away from the sport altogether in 2012.

“I think the majority of my people, the people around me was saying, ‘Don't give up’.”

Talking exclusively to the Olympic Channel Podcast, here are five of the most interesting talking points from the episode.

Dalilah Muhammad: Doubt is natural

It’s all too easy to focus on the glorious moments that happen on the podium with someone as successful as Dalilah.

There can be an assumption that it was always ‘meant to be’.

In reality, even top, elite, world-recording breaking winners like Dalilah have their moments of hesitation.

“I think [with] all athletes it is natural on any level to experience doubt.”

The pay-off from these moments though is the warm glow of achievement once the goals are fulfilled.

“It's been a good career on paper. So, there's definitely some [satisfaction] in a sense.”

Dalilah Muhammad: Nearly giving up

Around the US Olympic trials ahead of London 2012, Dalilah was not one of the hottest names.

She was at the University of Southern California and her college career had been solid but not necessarily telling of the talent she would later show.

“I remember having that conversation with [my college coaches] and just saying, like, you know, I'm going to be done after I graduate after these Olympic trials in 2012.”

Her parents agreed to cover her cors for a year and encouraged her to continue despite not making the Olympics in 2012.

The belief of the people around her made Dalilah believe in herself.

“I'm so thankful for that, because without it, it could have been a different story.”

Dalilah Muhammad (left) and Sydney McLaughlin battle in the women's 400m hurdles final in Doha in 2019
Picture by 2019 Getty Images

Dalilah Muhammad: 2019 was a year of awakening

Becoming world champion and breaking the world record at the same time was an incredible achievement.

The year of 2019 was also a year of awakening for Dalilah.

She expressed her thoughts to Sports Illustrated along with some other prominent black athletes from the USA.

“As black athletes, you have this feeling that you had to do a lot more than your counterparts to receive less.

“I think it's always kind of been that feeling. But I think in that year in particular, it was it was no longer feeling. It was a fact."

The experience has become even more prescient in 2021.

“I think it's so important to kind of just get it off your chest… put it in words, put it in writing and just have other people hear it… to really make changes and to move forward.”

Dalilah Muhammad: The Olympics brings people together

With Tokyo 2020 on the horizon, Dalilah will head into the outdoor season as one of the favourites to retain her Olympic title.

After a challenging period in the world, the Olympics aims to bring a message of hope.

“The Olympics.. definitely brings people together and it [also] brings this healthy competition, people rooting for one another. And it's exactly that thing that unites us.”

Dalilah Muhammad: The Olympics brings people together

And as for breaking more world records? It’s a distinct possibility.

“Absolutely,” Dalilah said with a smile.

“I'll take it any day.”