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Former Olympians Believe Sydney McLaughlin Could Break Records Athletically, Financially

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Two-time Olympic silver medalist Terrence Trammell believes Sydney McLaughlin could not only break the world record but also set a record for future earnings. (Larry Vaught Photo) Two-time Olympic silver medalist Terrence Trammell believes Sydney McLaughlin could not only break the world record but also set a record for future earnings. (Larry Vaught Photo)

By LARRY VAUGHT

Not only did Kevin Young win the gold medal in the 400-meter hurdles at the 1992 Olympics, but he became the first person to break 47 seconds with his winning time of 46.78 seconds. That was 26 years ago and not only is it still a world record, but no one else has ever run under 47 seconds.

Young now thinks Kentucky NCAA champion Sydney McLaughlin could eventually have the same historical impact on the women’s 400-meter hurdles by becoming the first woman to complete the event under 52 seconds. The current record in 52.34 seconds set by Russian Yuliva Pechonkina in 2003.

“If anyone is going to do it, I think it’s going to be her,” said Young, who was in Kentucky last week for the Maximum Velocity Track & Field Academy at Centre College in Danville. “She’s already really fast but technically there are still things she can do to get better. I really believe she’s going to be the one to break that record and break it in dramatic fashion.”

McLaughlin, who turns 19 in August, announced after winning the 400-meter hurdles at the NCAA championship Saturday that she would turn pro. She competed in the 2016 Olympics as a 16-year-old and has a group of world and national age group records already.

She broke the NCAA record in the 400 hurdles with a 52.75 clocking while winning the SEC Championship. She ran the 400-meter dash in 50.36 seconds at the NCAA indoor championship to set a world junior record and then ran a 50.07 in the Florida relays, the second best time in NCAA history.

“She just had a remarkable freshman season,” Terrence Trammell, a two-time Olympic silver medalist in the 100-meter hurdles, said. “She still gets a little choppy on some things (in the hurdles), but she’s just 18. I think a year in college was a smart move for her before she turned pro, but I’m with Kevin — she could break the world record and probably will.”

McLaughlin surprised many when she came to Kentucky following her brilliant prep career in New Jersey. Many thought she would either pick a more traditional track power or simply turn professional. At Kentucky, she had a low-key year off the track with few interviews and public appearances.

Trammell thought it was the kind of break she needed after being in the spotlight so much at such a young age.

“You are dealing with so many things when you go to college. Clearly the culture shock coming from New Jersey to Kentucky had to be something,” Trammell said. “College life in itself is different. Professors just expect work to be done and juggling the schedule of being a student-athlete can be a lot for anybody. It can cause pressure from all the expectations from people on the outside, too, even for someone like her.

“She got plenty of attention. At this point a young athlete like her can come to practice and just live stream her workout and hundreds of thousands can see her story. Social media changes everything for an athlete like her.”

Both Trammell and Young think McLaughlin is also likely to break another record.

“She could be the first million dollar hurdler. She could earn more than anyone has,” Trammell said. “She’s so young, so good and so marketable. I don’t know what she has in mind for an agent or anything like that. But she’s going to have sponsors lined up wanting her for their products. So I could easily see her being the first woman to run a 51 (in the 400 hurdles) and also become the highest paid track athlete we’ve had.”

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