Athletics-Rivals McLaughlin, Muhammad ready for 400m hurdles showdown

By Amy Tennery

EUGENE, Ore. (Reuters) -Record-holder Sydney McLaughlin is set for a showdown with rival and fellow American Dalilah Muhammad, after she clobbered her 400 metres hurdles semi-final in Wednesday’s fastest time.

McLaughlin broke Muhammad’s world record and ended her Olympic title defence last year, and in Friday’s final takes aim the last jewel in her crown: the World Championship.

The 22-year-old showed she was spoiling for a fight at Hayward Field on Wednesday, claiming the lead before she had cleared the final turn, slowing through the final straight with plenty left in the tank to win in 52.17 seconds, more than one-and-a-half seconds ahead of Gianna Woodruff of Panama.

Fans are hopeful they could see McLaughlin make magic in Friday’s final on the Hayward Field track where she has twice broken the world record and made the extraordinary seem almost routine.

“I felt it was a good day to get faster. I just need to shake off some of the nerves and get ready for Friday,” said McLaughlin.

“I just want to be free, give all I have and leave it all on the track.”

Muhmmad got off the blocks slower than many of her competitors but was a couple metres clear of the field by the ninth hurdle, gliding through the finish easily to win her respective heat in 53.28.

“I felt good. I felt in control. I think I only have to run the back a little stronger,” she told reporters.

Two more Americans, Shamier Little and Britton Wilson, also advanced.

The Netherlands’ Femke Bol, the Tokyo bronze medallist who produced an extraordinary effort to help collect silver in the 4×400 metres mixed relay on Friday, won her race in 52.84 to reach her first world final.

“Not super but exactly what I needed,” she said. “I was not going full 100 percent so I could push a bit.”

(Reporting by Amy Tennery in Eugene, Oregon; editing by Christian Schmollinger)