Picture by 2019 Getty Images

Sydney McLaughlin: Five things to know about the 400m hurdler

The second fastest 400m hurdler of all-time joined the Olympic Channel Podcast for an interview. Here are five key take-aways about the Team USA star with her eyes on Tokyo 2020 in 2021.
By Ed Knowles

Sydney McLaughlin has been one of the most promising talents in track athletics since her qualification for Rio 2016 aged 16.

Her second placed at the world championships in 2019 in the 400m hurdles with the second fastest time in history cemented her position at the very top.

I couldn't ask for anything more in my first season as a pro – McLaughlin on Doha performance

Born in New Jersey, McLaughlin grew up with parents from an athletic background. Her father reached the semis in the 1984 Olympic trials and her mother ran in high school. She is one of the most popular athletes on the planet, with nearly half a million followers on Instagram.

But what drives the American star? Here are the five key take-aways from her interview on the Olympic Channel Podcast ahead of the U.S Track and Field Trials for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics in 2021.

Sydney McLaughlin is one of the most popular athletes in track and field
Picture by 2019 Getty Images

Sydney McLaughlin: Mindset

McLaughlin missed out on selection for the 2017 World Championships.

Two years later, she is the second fastest woman to have run the 400m hurdles in history.

The ability to remain mentally focused is one her greatest assets – especially when faced with a disappointment.

Sydney McLaughlin was still in high school when she competed at Rio 2016 in the 400m hurdles
Picture by 2016 Getty Images

“It's so crucial to have just that mindset of focusing on your lane, literally, throughout your whole career,” she said to the Olympic Channel Podcast.

“Everyone has their own hurdles and you can't determine who's getting over them faster than anybody else.

“Someone I know said it best… Putting your hopes in something that you cannot control, or you have no control over, is the definition of being out of control.

“It’s really just about focusing on what you have the control of.”

Sydney McLaughlin: 2019 World Championships

The competition for Olympic gold in the 400m hurdles is fierce, with fellow American Dalilah Muhammad breaking the world record at the 2019 world championships in Doha with a time of 52.16s.

McLaughlin was second, 0.07s behind.

“My approach to going to Doha was really just to go out there and just let loose for one race.

“I think a lot of my races are very calculated.

“There were definitely some things looking back that we could have fixed and little mistakes, but coming out with being the second fastest woman in history right behind my fellow teammate who's the world record holder… I couldn't ask for anything more in my first season as a pro.”

Sydney McLaughling [left] on the podium following her silver medal at the 2019 world championships in Doha
Picture by 2019 Getty Images

Sydney McLaughlin: Teaming up with coach Bobby Kersee

The pandemic has been a time of upheaval for most people across the globe.

It gave Sydney some perspective and a chance to make some changes.

She decided to switch her coach to Bobby Kersee.

“He's been coaching [for] so many [years]. it's really exciting to be in a situation where you're around people who know what they're doing…

“He’s such a knowledgeable coach. He always has an answer and he's always saying if we're dumb enough to make a mistake, we're smart enough to make a correction.

“It's never a dull moment with Bobby, for sure!”

Sydney McLaughlin: Training with Allyson Felix

Another reason why Sydney decided to switch up her training set up was the opportunity to train with USA teammate and six-time Olympic champion sprinter Allyson Felix.

“Allyson is awesome. She's such a fierce competitor and it shows every single day in practice.

“I'm definitely always watching to see how she handles certain situations.

“Whether it's in training or at meets and asking her questions.

“I'm really grateful that she's willing to help me out.”

It’s not just on the unprecedented track career that Sydney respects. Its also Allyson’s commitment to causes away from sport.

“She’s the most decorated female track and field Olympian in history, but she's also worked so hard off the track

“Being a mother and just fighting for all of those things, especially in our sport, it shows a lot. Someone who's such a great athlete but also such a great person.”

Sydney McLaughlin: An identity not tied to the sport

When you are an elite athlete, it’s easy to start to think that your results are what define you.

This can mean trouble once those races stop happening.

McLaughlin has put in the work to stop this from happening.

“I think when you're on the highest stage possible, there's so much just expectation around why you're there.

“The races are important, but so is everything that comes with that, because this is an amazing opportunity that I have.”