Past winners of the girls’ 400m hurdles title include Zuzana Hejnova and Jana Pittman, who both went on to scoop senior world titles and there will be a rising sense of anticipation that the latest holder, Sydney McLaughlin, could go on one day to emulate the feat.
The much heralded 15-year-old US athlete produced a 400m hurdles masterclass at the IAAF World Youth Championships, Cali 2015 to trim 0.02 from the 10-year-old championship record held by Ebony Collins, stopping the clock at 55.94 to strike gold.
Canada’s Xahria Santiago recovered from a disappointing semi-final to produce a splendid run from lane one to take silver in a personal best of 56.79 while McLaughin’s countrywoman Brandee Johnson took bronze in a personal best of 57.47.
Yet this race was all about the hugely-talented New Jersey high school student, who has proved invincible this season over a range of events.
Competing in lane three with her trademark bow in her hair, McLaughlin set off with intent and had already established a clear advantage by hurdle two.
The only athlete prepared to attempt to go with the blistering pace was Johnson, the Youth Olympic 200m bronze medallist, running two lanes on her outside.
McLaughlin continued to build on her lead and entered the home straight at least five metres to the good from Johnson, followed by Santiago who had quietly crept into contention.
Briefly the long-time leader looked vulnerable to the Canadian’s rising threat but she resisted the challenge to claim gold by more than half a second to add a second IAAF World Youth Championship medal to the family collection. Older brother, Taylor, won a medley relay silver at the last edition in Donetsk two years ago.
An elated McLaughlin, who had suffered a number of worrying injury niggles in the spring, said: “I am completely happy. The track was so fast I had to check my rhythm all the time. I am looking at a great future and it is a big honour to be this successful for USA.”
As a further measure of her class, McLaughlin’s personal best time of 55.28 set earlier this month in Lisle stands her 18th on the 2015 senior world lists for the event. Not bad going for a 15-year-old.
Steve Landells for the IAAF