EUGENE, Ore.—It only made sense that Sydney McLaughlin would run the last, victorious lap of world championships for the United States.
It only made sense she would win that race by a lot.
America’s burgeoning speed star turned a close 4×400-meter relay into a laugher on the anchor leg Sunday, putting the final stamp on the first worlds held in the United States and delivering America’s record 33rd medal of the meet.
It was the 13th gold for the United States, one short of the all-time mark.
“We’re deep,” McLaughlin said. “We have a lot of really amazing athletes and we all put our 100 percent best out there every time we perform.”
After taking the baton from Britton Wilson, McLaughlin turned a .73-second lead into a 2.95-second blowout over Jamaica, adding this burst of speed to the world record she set two nights earlier in the 400 hurdles, when she finished in 50.68.
This one was especially sweet, as it also marked the 14th and final world gold for 36-year-old Allyson Felix, who came out of retirement to run in the preliminary of the 4×400 and, so, gets a medal. She finishes her career with a record 20 world medals, overall.
“She came back yesterday and I was like, I mean, if we’re gonna go do it, we might as well do it big,” McLaughlin said. “And I’m really happy for her amazing career.”
The U.S. team, also featuring Talitha Diggs and Abby Steiner, who was part of the winning 4×100 relay team the night before, won the women’s race in 3 minutes, 17.79 seconds.
The 33 medals were three more than the United States collected in 2017, and two more than East Germany won in 1987.
Other records fell, too—in the very first and very last action of the last session at hot-and-sunny Hayward Stadium, the 25,000-seat gem built at University of Oregon to bring the worlds to Eugene.
Nigeria’s Tobi Amusan opened the evening by setting the record for the 100-meter hurdles in the semifinals: 12.12 seconds. She came back about 90 minutes later to win the gold medal. Her medal-race time was actually faster—12.06—but the wind was too strong, so that mark doesn’t go in the books.
“When I watched the record, I was like ‘Whoa, who did that?‘” Amusan said.
And after McLaughlin was done with her last lap, pole vaulter Armand Duplantis of Sweden cleared 6.21 meters (20 feet, 4 1/2 inches) to best his world record by .01.
“It’s like mania, and you’re just kind of going crazy,” Duplantis said of his reaction. “I barely remember the moment.”
As was the case through most of these 10 days, America’s medals came from every corner of the track—and the field.
Athing Mu said she struggled in capturing gold in the 800, busting through the two laps in 1:56.30—a .08 margin over Britain’s Keely Hodgkinson.
“I’m just glad I could make it to the line and finish the race,” she said. “And thank God I won gold.”
The 20-year-old Mu is now the Olympic and world champion at that distance and, along with McLaughlin, part of a bright future for the United States with the Paris Olympics now two years away.
In between, a sprinter named Champion—Champion Allison—anchored the men’s 4×400 to an easy win for medal No. 32. The United States won in 2:56.17 for a 2.41-second margin over Jamaica.
Another medal went to U.S. pole vaulter Christopher Nilsen, who cleared 5.94 meters (19 feet, 5 3/4 inches), to clinch silver, then stepped aside to see what Duplantis would do.
The Olympic champion known as “Mondo” missed on his first attempt at the record, then waited for the relay, then got the crowd clapping in rhythm for him and cleared the bar.
Last year at the Olympics in Tokyo, the U.S. men got shut out of the sprints, leading to some questions about what was wrong.
Answer: Not much. With Fred Kerley and Noah Lyles leading the way, the men swept the sprints earlier in the week, and Ryan Crouser led a sweep in shot put. The 4×100 silver-medal relay team was messy—nothing new there—but it was a blip.
In all, the men walked away with four more medals than the women during this 10-day meet.
“It kind of fueled us to make a mark and demonstrate that we are Team USA, instead of people doubting us,” Michael Norman, who added the relay gold to his win in the 400 flat, said of the men’s reset after Tokyo. “I think we really stepped up based on that.”
In other action, Kevin Mayer of France won the decathlon, adding this to his title in 2017.
And the 5,000-meter title went to Jakob Ingebrigtsen of Norway, who finished in 13:09.24 in a special race.
That was the last race the legendary Steve Prefontaine of Oregon ran before a fatal car accident in Eugene in 1975.
It’s a city brimming with tributes to “Pre,” and in many ways, track’s biggest event, the world championships, ended up in this college town of 170,000 thanks to the tracks he laid down a half-century ago.
“This is probably the best place I could have won it,” Ingebrigtsen said.
All those U.S. medal holders would certainly agree.
By Eddie Pells