PARIS: Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone destroyed the 400m hurdles world record when she claimed world championships gold on home soil last year and the American now has her sights set on the long-standing best in the 400m flat.The 23-year-old ran a sensational 50.68sec to win the hurdles at the worlds in Oregon last year, becoming the first woman to go under the 51-sec mark. McLaughlin-Levrone will kick off her outdoor season at the Diamond League in Paris on Friday, but over the 400m flat, without the encumbrance of 10 hurdles at Stade Charlety. "I think it´s possible," she told AFP in an interview when asked whether she felt capable of bettering the current 400m world record of 47.60sec set by Marita Koch of the former East Germany back in 1985.
"Only time will tell, but the thing for us, it´s just working every day to be better and whatever event we choose to do -- and I still haven´t fully decided -- if that happens in the years to come, then that´ll be good." McLaughlin-Levrone, who made her Olympic debut as a 16-year-old at the Rio Games in 2016, thrives on high pressure, seemingly performing at her very best at the cut-throat end of championships. She was unbeaten in the seven 400m hurdles events during her 2021 season, breaking the world record twice en route to winning Olympic gold in Tokyo. That form was confirmed by her epic display at the Oregon worlds, her world record there just 0.61sec off her personal best in the 400m flat.
"Normally the conversion from hurdles to flat is about three seconds, give or take, so it should be possible based upon the numbers," said the American, who must surely be looking at a vastly-improved PB on that count. "47 seconds is a very fast race, a very fast pace. You have to be very strong." The two events, she added, had proved to be totally varying beasts. "I´ve just been learning overall just how different the open 400m is from the 400 hurdles and how different the energy systems are," McLaughlin-Levrone told AFP. "It is a completely different race than my normal event." Speaking of her 400m hurdles world record, she added: "In order to do something that´s never been done, you have to push your body to the highest of its limits.
"That´s what we did every day in practice, mentally and physically. It takes all the pieces falling into place at the same time in order to break a record like that. "It was very painful, very hard to do it, but it was very rewarding and it doesn´t happen every day so it´s definitely a culmination of all things working together." McLaughlin-Levrone acknowledged that one thing that came with her Olympic and world success was external pressure and demands to compete more.
But she insisted that her focus remained on her own performance, saying "I can´t put myself in a box". "I´m not going to be defined because when people place those expectations on you, you are now held to a different standard and I don´t like to do that. "When media ask me about records and medals, it´s great, but at the end of the day I´m racing myself and I´m trying to be the best that I can be.
"You´re not going to win every race, you´re not going to break every record, you´re not going to win every medal in the world, but if I can improve myself and continue to push myself to the limits, if those things come with it then that´s great." McLaughlin-Levrone added that there was no danger of overloading her programme in the run-in to the 2024 Paris Olympics. "We´re very selective in how many races we run," she said of her first participation in a Diamond League meet in Europe since 2019. "It´s wise that we choose and pick and choose how much we run... we do a great job managing how much is too much so that we can have that longevity."