McLaughlin-Levrone to focus on her best event, the 400 hurdles, at Olympic trials

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone plans on defending her title in the 400-meter hurdles at the Paris Olympics, and has scratched from the 200 and 400-meter flat races she had originally signed up for.

The world-record holder had been entered in all three races for this month’s U.S. Olympic trials, but as of Tuesday, she was listed as a “scratch” in the 200 and 400.

At a media gathering in Los Angeles to roll out Michael Johnson’s new track league on Tuesday, McLaughlin-Levrone confirmed she will narrow her Olympic focus to what she called “my first love, per se.”

“I think we kind of just knew we wanted to come back to the hurdles,” McLaughlin-Levrone told The Associated Press. “Last year was fun trying the (400) and kind of dabbling in that, and you know, in the future we might come back to that as well, but I think this is kind of just our focus right now.”

Less than three weeks ago in Atlanta, McLaughlin-Levrone ran her first 400 hurdles race in nearly two years. She finished in a time of 52.70, which gave her the Olympic standard.

But McLaughlin-Levrone also loves “to show my range,” as she put it Tuesday, and she’s done just that in recent months.

Just nine days ago, she ran a 400 flat at the NYC Grand Prix in 48.75 seconds — the third fastest time in U.S. history. This year alone, the 24-year-old has raced in five different events — the 100 and 400 hurdles, the 200 and 400 flat and the 4×100 relay. She also has an Olympic gold medal in the 4×400 relay.

She has hinted at taking on even bigger challenges ever since her victory in Tokyo, but her actual intentions have been a mystery to most track fans up until the last few weeks.

Yet there was virtually no chance of her running in both the 400 flat and hurdles because the schedules for those races overlap in Paris.

So McLaughlin-Levrone is focused on the hurdles, which her coach, Bobby Kersee, recently called her “No. 1 event.”

McLaughlin-Levrone first broke the 400 hurdles world record at the Olympic trials in 2021 and has lowered it three times since, most recently to 50.68 seconds at 2022 world championships in Eugene, Oregon — the site of the trials that begin Friday.

Heading into her third trials — something “that’s crazy to say,” she laughed — the young veteran is well aware of the pressure on her every move in Eugene, yet she welcomes it.

“I feel like trials is always a good time to figure out what the rounds look like and the fitness is at,” McLaughlin-Levrone said. “We have some time still before Paris, but it’s always the hardest team to make, so we’ve obviously got to go out there and put on a performance first.”

McLaughlin-Levrone was injured during last year’s world championships, opening the door for Femke Bol of the Netherlands to take the title. Bol will be McLaughlin-Levrone’s biggest challenger in Paris.

The first round of the 400 hurdles at trials is June 27.

“Just feeling strong, feeling healthy and getting ready for these trials,” she said before heading off to a workout.


AP National Writer Eddie Pells contributed to this report.


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