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Summer track plans take shape for Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone, Athing Mu

Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone

Jun 23, 2022; Eugene, OR, USA; Sydney McLaughlin wins women’s 400m heat in 54.11 for the top time during the USA Championships at Hayward Field, Eugene. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The plan is for Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone, the Olympic and world champion and world record holder in the 400m hurdles, to race the flat 400m at July’s USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships, then either the flat 400m or 400m hurdles at August’s world championships.

McLaughlin-Levrone’s coach, Bob Kersee, said Thursday that McLaughlin-Levrone will race one individual event at worlds in Budapest as the schedule is not conducive to attempt a 400m-400m hurdles double (400m hurdles heats start 2 hours and 20 minutes before the 400m semifinals).

The plan is to decide between the two individual events after USATF Outdoors, assuming McLaughlin-Levrone qualifies in the 400m by finishing in the top three there.

McLaughlin-Levrone has a bye into the 400m hurdles at worlds as defending champion, meaning she does not have to race the event at USATF Outdoors in Eugene, Oregon, the qualifying meet for worlds in Budapest.

Many athletes with byes race complementary events at USATF Outdoors, which makes the plan for McLaughlin-Levrone to run the flat 400m unsurprising, especially given her comments last year that she wanted to add it to her repertoire without giving up the 400m hurdles.

McLaughlin-Levrone has never raced the flat 400m at a top-level championship meet, but her 400m split in the women’s 4x400m relay at last July’s worlds was the world’s second-fastest in the last 33 years.

Kersee also confirmed an Orange County Register report that McLaughlin-Levrone could race both the mixed-gender 4x400m and the women’s 4x400m at worlds, in addition to her individual event. Kersee also said that another one of his pupils, Olympic and world 800m champion Athing Mu, could do both relays, according to the report.

If that ends up happening, McLaughlin-Levrone and Mu could bid to become the first track and field athlete to win three gold medals at a single worlds since Usain Bolt, who did so in 2009, 2013 and 2015, and the first woman to do so since Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce in 2013. The last Americans to do so were Allyson Felix and Tyson Gay in 2007.

McLaughlin-Levrone was due to run the flat 400m at the Los Angeles Grand Prix on May 27, but her agent announced Tuesday that she withdrew due to a coach’s decision. Kersee said McLaughlin-Levrone recently irritated a hamstring, according to the OC Register.

Turning to Mu, Kersee said that the plan is for her to race the 1500m at USATF Outdoors since she has a bye into the 800m at worlds, according to the OC Register.

Mu, 20, said in February that, at some point, she would like to try a 400m-800m double at an Olympics or worlds.

“As long as the schedule permits, and as long as we can manage to get training in that will help with both of those events,” she said then. “Since the last time that has happened was like years and years and years ago (In 1976, Cuban Alberto Juantorena won the Olympic men’s 400m and 800m, running seven times in seven days), I think it’d be cool to kind of bring it back and, I don’t know, change the sport.”

That might not be possible in 2024, when the Olympic schedule has the 800m semifinals, 400m first round and 800m final spread out over a 26-hour stretch.

However, Kersee said that a 2024 Olympic 800m-1500m double is possible for Mu, according to the OC Register.

Those two events originally overlapped on the Olympic schedule, but an updated schedule in January broke them up so that the 1500m first round is the morning after the 800m final.

The Olympic schedule is as accommodating as ever for a possible women’s 400m-400m hurdles double in 2024, though neither Kersee nor McLaughlin-Levrone has addressed it publicly.

For the first time in Olympic history, none of the rounds of those races take place on the same day at the Games. But doing both through the finals would still be a challenge: racing six consecutive days at the Olympics (and a seventh day at the end if adding the 4x400m relay).

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly reported that the current 2024 Olympic schedule had the women’s 800m and 1500m overlapping.

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