Picture by 2019 Getty Images

Why Sydney McLaughlin is an athlete to watch at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics in 2021

Find out more about the puppy-loving 400m hurdler from the USA, who was a runner-up to Dalilah Muhammad at the world championships in Doha in 2019.
By Ed Knowles

Athletics superstar Sydney McLaughlin was born on August 7, 1999.

She should’ve celebrated her 21st birthday during the Olympics in Tokyo in 2020.

Instead, she hopes to celebrate becoming 22 at the rearranged Games in 2021.

Aged just 16, McLaughlin qualified for Rio 2016 but didn’t make the final in the 400m hurdles.

She was just behind fellow American and world record holder Dalilah Muhammad in finishing second at the 2019 World Athletics Championships in Doha.

And with the extra couple of years of experience, her rivals and teammates know the Team USA runner is a serious medal threat for Tokyo 2020.

"Syd has the potential to impact lives" – Allyson Felix on Sydney McLaughlin

Let’s take a look at five top reasons why Sydney McLaughlin is one to watch for Tokyo 2020.

Dalilah Muhammad [left] and Sydney McLaughlin [right] after the 400m hurdles final at the world championships
Picture by 2019 Getty Images

Sydney McLaughlin: Olympic pedigree

In 2016, Sydney was the youngest US track and field athlete to qualify for the Olympic Games since 1980.

She was still competing in high school events earlier in that year.

But there she was, on the plane, ready to compete on the biggest stage in the world.

“Honestly, even after I made the team, I couldn’t believe it. I woke up the next morning, and I was like: ‘This is not real life’,” she said to the Guardian.

McLaughlin didn’t make the final after finishing fifth in the semis. It was still an excellent experience.

“I think it actually took me going to Rio to understand that, OK, this one is out of the way … now I can really go to the Olympics.”

Sydney McLaughlin: Super fast

Dalilah Muhammad was the Olympic champion in Rio. She was put under pressure at the world championships in 2019.

Sydney finished just 0.07s behind Dalilah in the final to set a new world record of 52.16s.

McLaughlin’s time would have been fast enough to break the old record and is the second-fastest 400m hurdles time in history.

“Anyone would be upset falling a little bit short, but to end it with a half-a-second PR and that close to the world record, I couldn’t really complain. And it was perfect timing setting it up for [the Olympics],” McClaughlin said to the Guardian.

Sydney McLaughlin competes at the Rio 2016 Olympics
Picture by 2016 Getty Images

Sydney McLaughlin: Endorsement from Allyson Felix

Sydney made the second annual TIME100 Next list.

Six-time Olympic champion sprinter Allyson Felix heaped praise on Sydney.

“I train alongside Syd every day, and what I notice the most is her tremendous potential and not just as an Olympic athlete.

“She has the potential to become the most outstanding 400m hurdler of all time, yes, but, more importantly, Syd has the potential to impact lives. That is her greatest strength and her greatest opportunity.”

Sydney McLaughlin: A relaxed mindset

Sydney's athletic capability is unquestionable and her mindset is similarly geared to success.

“My fastest races, I actually don’t remember. I go into a mental state where you’re aware but you’re really not in the moment because everything is just flowing,” she said to Athletics Weekly.

“It definitely takes a level of relaxation and trusting the process to get through some of those harder races.”

To relax, Sydney likes to spend time with her Goldendoodle dog called Laylay.

“My puppy has kept me busy,” McLaughlin said of the dog who turned one in 2020.

No word on whether the puppy shares its owner’s love of racing.

Sydney McLaughlin poses with fans at the 2019 USATF Outdoor Championships
Picture by 2019 Getty Images

Sydney McLaughlin: Fashionable on and off the track

Sydney’s Instagram feed is simple, sleek, and super stylish.

She’s into fashion and has collaborated with some really interesting brands.

“I always practice and race in high-performance wear that feels classic, but reflects my personality, so this collection is the perfect combination for me,” she said to Women’s Running.

“I love that the clothes can be worn on and off the track.”