McLaughlin-Levrone, Mu chasing iconic world records, just not in LA

Olympic and world champions Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone and Athing Mu were supposed to headline next week’s Los Angeles Grand Prix, billed as the most star-studded track meet in Southern California since the 1984 Olympic Games.

Instead Mu and McLaughlin will miss the meet because of health concerns, according to Bob Kersee, who coaches both athletes in Los Angeles,

“Not really injuries, it’s more of a setback,” Kersee said.

Kersee in an interview with the Southern California News Group Thursday elaborated not only on McLaughlin-Levrone and Mu’s current status but also on their plans for a 2023 season that includes the World Championships in Budapest (August 18-27) and the World Athletics Diamond League final at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene (September 16-17), the first time the circuit’s season finale has been held on American soil.

McLaughlin, who lowered the 400 meter hurdles world record four times between June 2021 and July 2022, taking the standard from 52.16 seconds to 50.68, irritated her hamstring during testing with renowned biomechanics expert Ralph Mann, an Olympic medalist in the 400 hurdles, during a recent training camp in Arizona.

“I don’t have her where I need, where I want her to be at this time to perform at the level that she needs to,” Kersee said.

Mu, the Olympic and world 800 meter champion, was supposed to open her season by running the 1,500 at the Los Angeles Grand Prix at UCLA’s Drake Stadium.

“With Athing she’s doing well but she caught COVID a week or so ago and it obviously took her off her game,” Kersee said. “And so I really wanted to see her do more of a 1,500-meter versus 800 meters or 400 meters.”

Because both women as reigning world champions have byes into this year’s Worlds, McLaughlin will run the flat 400 instead of the hurdles at the U.S. Championships next month in Eugene, while Mu will contest the 1,500 instead of the 800, Kersee said. The coach added he would like both women to compete for Team USA in the mixed relay and the women’s 4×400 relay at Worlds.

Both are capable of breaking two of track and field’s oldest world records: the 400 mark of 47.60 seconds set by East Germany’s Marita Koch in 1985 and the 800 standard, 1-minute. 53.28 seconds, held by Czechoslovakia’s Jarmila Kratochvilova since 1983, Kersee said.

No woman has come within even a half-second of Koch’s world record since she set it. Only two women have even broken 48.5 this century.

But after McLaughlin-Levrone followed up her 50.68 world record shattering 400 hurdles victory at last summer’s Worlds with a 47.91 leg in 4×400 relay, the meet’s finale, the sport has been consumed with the thought of McLaughlin both taking down Koch’s mark and breaking the 50-second barrier in the hurdles.

“She was ready to break 50 when she broke 50,” Kersee said.

Is McLaughlin-Levrone also capable of erasing Koch’s record?

I believe she is,” Kersee said. “I don’t really want to give away the secrets of what I think she can do, but overall in terms of 400 meters runner, I think the speed requirement and the strength requirement is needed.

“I look at Sydney, she has all that. She has the athletic talent of a Jackie, speed of a Florence,” Kersee said referring to his wife Jackie Joyner-Kersee, whose 1988 world record in the heptathlon still stands, and his late sister-in-law Florence Griffith-Joyner, still the world record holder in the 100 and 200, both also set in 1988.

“She’s at 50-point in the 400 hurdles so she has the speed, the endurance and now a good amount of aerobic base work. I just think that she has the natural ability to run under 48 seconds.”

Athing Mu, of the United States, wins the final in the women’s 800-meter run at the World Athletics Championships on Sunday, July 24, 2022, in Eugene, Ore. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

Kersee said Mu’s work toward the 1,500 will play a key role in her challenging the 800 world record. Only one woman, South Africa’s Caster Semenya, has even come within a second of Kratochvilova’s global standard in the ensuing 40 years

Mu is the eighth-fastest woman in history, sixth fastest this century, with her 1:55.04 American record.

“I think the goal is she needs to be under 3:59 or better to really get the benefit out of the 1,500 and with her speed ability to get the ultimate transfer to the 800 in order to break that other 30-year-old (plus) record at 800 meters,”Kersee said.

“I just think when she has that, that anaerobic threshold and being able to hold over that and take the 800 out at a decent speed, that’s going to allow her to go under 1:53.”

Kersee also raised the possibility of Mu attempting next summer to become the first woman to sweep the Olympic 1,500 and 800 gold medals since Great Britain’s Kelly Holmes in 2004.

“The 800/1500 or 400/800 has been done and I think Athing has that ability and I think if the schedule allows it, it would be nice to see for a woman to double the 8 and 15 at a very high level with the potential to gold medal in both,” Kersee said.

What you won’t see is Mu and McLauglin-Levrone racing each other over 400 meters, a showdown Olympic champion Michael Johnson, among others, has said they would most like to see.

“No, no, no,” Kersee when asked about the potential 400 matchup. “No. They train (together) enough. Racing them together is not needed. Particularly for me. … It would not make any sense for me to put them together.”

Related Articles

Olympics |

Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone, Athing Mu out of LA Grand Prix track meet

Olympics |

Josette Andrews leads way on rocking night at On Track Fest

Olympics |

Yared Nuguse: American track’s low-key superstar

Olympics |

Former UC Berkeley swimmers file suit against regents after alleged bullying by coach

Olympics |

Olympic gold medalist Tori Bowie dies at 32

Share the Post:

Related Posts