By Amy Tennery
(Reuters) – Returning champion Dalilah Muhammad said she was capable of running a personal best at the world championships as she renews one of athletics’ fiercest rivalries in the 400 metres hurdles.
The 2016 Olympic champion opted out of nationals last month but said she is rested and ready as the international athletics meet kicks off in the United States for the first time this week, in Eugene, Oregon.
“I kind of tweaked my hamstring about two weeks before U.S. championships and I just didn’t want to risk it,” said Muhammad, a partner with wellness products maker Cheribundi, who had automatic entry as a defending champion.
“My injury wasn’t super severe, but it just didn’t make sense to kind of risk going out there and kind of reinjuring it and retweaking it,” she told Reuters in an interview.
The 32-year-old eased off her competition load this year, winning the Birmingham Diamond League event in May before going into recovery mode.
“I’m feeling really strong now,” she said. “I’m capable of running fast… I’m capable of running a PR.”
But she faces a serious challenge in the form of 22-year-old Sydney McLaughlin who stole her Olympic crown in Tokyo.
Muhammad broke the 16-year-old world record in 2019 only to have McLaughlin best that mark a year ago before breaking the record again in Tokyo and most recently at the U.S. trials last month, where she produced a 51.41-second performance.
“It’s just super amazing that you have two women both in the same country that are able to run as fast as we’ve been able to go,” Muhammad said.
“That’s kind of amazing to just see that and the same two people during the same time period running so well.”
The pair set aside their rivalry to work with 800 metres Olympic champion Athing Mu and Allyson Felix, the most decorated American track athlete, to pick up gold in the 4×400 metres relay in Tokyo, and Muhammad said there is nothing but respect between them.
“We both want to be the best. We both want to win the race,” she said. “We don’t really speak too much before the race, but after the race it’s all love.”
(Reporting by Amy Tennery in New York; Editing by Hugh Lawson)