Double Olympic champions Sydney McLaughlin and Athing Mu dazzle at the 2022 Penn Relays

Mclaughlin "really excited to come back" in setting 100m hurdles Penn Relays record while Mu thrilled the home crowd in Philadelphia with a dominant win in the 600m.

By Evelyn Watta
Picture by Ryan Pierse

Sydney McLaughlin had an impressive return to the athletics track on Saturday (30 April), raced to a meet record 12.75 seconds in the 100m hurdles at the Penn Relays in Philadelphia.

It was the American's first race since her record-breaking gold medal-winning performance at the Tokyo 2020 Games in 2021.

Another double Olympic champion, Athing Mu, also wowed her home crowd in her Penn Relays debut winning the 600m elite race in 1:22.74 at one of the most popular track and field meets in the USA.

McLaughlin, fresh from 8 months away from competition after winning two gold medals at the Tokyo Games in the 400m hurdles and the 4x400m relay, chose to run the 100m hurdles, which offered her a strong build-up ahead of the 2022 outdoor season.

The 22-year-old, who broke her own 400 mh world record with her time of 51.46 seconds at the Olympics, was in perfect shape as she crossed the line first ahead of Canada’s Mariam Abdul-Rashid who timed 13.17 and compatriot Evonne Britton third in 13.23.

“I was really excited to come back,” said McLaughlin in an interview with nj.com.

“I just wanted to start my season off strong and gauge where I was at. This isn’t my primary race, but I wanted to put up a good time so when the season progresses, I’ll be in a good position.”

She last raced at the Penn Relays in 2017, anchoring the 4x400m and posting the fastest 400m by a schoolgirl of 50.78.

“I remember running here with my team and it’s very intimidating,” she said.

“It’s a large crowd. I remember warming up on side streets and in apartment complexes on the side before coming in and racing the amazing Jamaican teams. These were some of our best races because it pushed us out of our comfort zone."

Mu tunes-up with fourth fastest 600m

Her Olympic teammate Mu, who ran the anchor leg for Team USA in the 4x400m final in Tokyo, also electrified her home crowd. with an explosive run over the last 150m of the women's 600m.

The 800m Olympic champion let Ajee Wilson set the early pace in the first 200m before she sprinted forward and pulled away from Jamaica’s Natoya Goule who finished second in 1:24.09, and Nia Akins who clocked 1:25.14 for third.

“This is probably the best atmosphere that I’ve had this whole 2021-22 season. It was cool. I was super happy to have all the supporters here,” said the 19-year-old who had only been a spectator at the Penn Relays before.

Mu’s 1:22.74 was her fastest over 600m and the fourth-fastest time ever.

“Running a 600, you have to leave something in your tank to come home that last (200),” Mu told The Trentonian.

“That first (400) was pretty fast.”

“I didn’t want to go out and make my move too early. I wanted to stay steady and move up gradually and then had enough to go to the finish line and take it from there.”

Two-time Olympian turned American football receiver Devon Allen was also in fine form at Franklin Field.

Allen, who is already training with the Philadelphia Eagles ahead of his permanent move to the NFL after the World Athletics Championships in July in Oregon, beat Rio 2016 gold medallist Omar McLeod in the 110m hurdles in 13.11 seconds. McLeod was second in 13.22 seconds.

World U20 stars set records in Botswana

There were equally fast times posted at the Gaborone International Meet on Saturday.

Olympic women's 200m silver medallist Christine Mboma became the first U20 runner to break 22 seconds in the 200m and 11 seconds for 100m on the same day.

The 18-year-old bettered the African U20 and Namibian senior 100m record with her winning time of 10.97. In her second event in the Botswana capital, she raced to a world lead of 21.87 seconds.

But it was local star Letsile Tebogo, the reigning world U20 gold medallist, who hogged the headlines.

The 18-year-old beat a loaded field to win the men's 100m in 9.96 seconds, lowering Trayvon Bromell’s world U20 record from 2014 by 0.01.

The world U20 silver medallist beat the South African pair of Benjamin Richardson and Olympian Henrico Bruintjies who finished second and third in 10.08 and 10.16 respectively.

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