Dalilah Muhammad Breaks 16-Year-Old World Record
The women’s 400m Hurdles event has progressed immensely, ever since it was first officially introduced as a discipline by the IAAF in the year 1974. The first woman to establish the 400m Hurdles World Record was Poland’s Krystyna Kacperczyk, who clocked 56.51s in 1974. Women’s 400m Hurdles was first introduced at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.
The first Olympics’ Record in women’s 400m Hurdles was established by Moroccan athlete Nawal El Moutawakel, who clocked 54.61s. Nawal El Moutawakel became the first female Muslim born on the continent of Africa to become an Olympic Champion. Moutawakel also happens to be the first Moroccan and the first woman from a Muslim majority country to win an Olympic Gold medal.
On the 28th of July 2019, American hurdler Dalilah Muhammad smashed the 16-year-old World Record in the 400m Hurdles clocking 52.20s at the USATF 2019 National Championships meet at Drake Stadium in Des Moines, Iowa. Dalilah Muhammad broke Russian Yuliya Pechonkina’s previous World Record of 52.34s established on the 3rd of August 2003.
Incidentally, the drizzly Sunday night was simply the perfect condition for Dalilah Muhammad, who loves to race when it rains. The defending Olympic Champion has been training hard to break the World Record since the last one year. She has been focusing to break the World Record. However, after the completion of the race, Dalilah was shocked to break the World. Her immediate reaction said it all. After the race, Dalilah enthused, “I am just shocked, I broke the World Record!”
Sydney McLaughlin was the hot favourite to win the race, because she had clocked 53.32s – the World Lead of the season at the 2019 Diamond League meet in Monaco on the 12th of July 2019. McLaughlin had earlier triumphed over Dalilah Muhammad at the 2019 Diamond League meet in Oslo on the 13th of June 2019. Rightly so, Dalilah Muhammad not only avenged her earlier defeat, but also broke the 16-year-old World Record. It was a sweet revenge.
Dalilah Muhammad dominated the race in great style. In spite of her glorious performance, she just couldn’t believe she had broken the World Record, shaking her head in total disbelief. McLaughlin hugged Dalilah for her excellent run finishing second in the race. It was a lovely coincidence that when Dalilah Muhammad won her Olympic Gold medal, it was raining at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
The World Record holder strongly believes that her 52.20s may not last long like the previous 16-year-old mark. In all likelihood, Dalilah Muhammad will erase her own World Record at the World Championships in Doha this October. After the race, Dalilah gushed optimistically, “That 52s is going to get broken. If not by me, then it will be by the other women.” She was indicating McLaughlin, who finished second clocking 52.88s.
20-year-young Sydney McLaughlin revealed, “It was a really fast race and I could feel the pace being pushed. I am happy to be a part of a World Record race.” It will be interesting to watch these two superb athletes competing at the World Championships in Doha.
Dalilah Muhammad was born in Jamaica, Queens in New York City on the 7th of February 1990. A gifted child, Little Dalilah was playful from her early years. As a 4-year toddler, Little Dalilah impressed the NY Novas Track Club Coach with her long jump. The Club approached mother Nadirah Muhammad and expressed their desires to groom Little Dalilah’s bright future.
At the age of 7, Little Dalilah joined the NY Novas Track Club. Nadirah’s did not wish her little angel to hurt herself running the hurdles, so she expressed her concern. Little Dalilah’s Coach eventually convinced Nadirah that her darling would become a great hurdler in near future. They certainly had already visioned Dalilah’s future.
Little Dalilah was well-groomed into a beautiful daughter by her Imam father Askia Muhammad. The liberal New York City Muslim family played a very significant role in shaping Little Dalilah’s successful future in not only the athletics world, but also in exemplifying her into a modern Muslim woman, who has her own progressive perspective about religion and sports.
Askia Muhammad reminisced about Little Dalilah’s growing up years, “You want to see what skills, abilities and talents God gave them. If you put pressure on them, cultural or religious pressure, their skills will be suppressed and we did not want to do that.” Dalilah did not disappoint her father or her first Coach. She was a natural and took to tracks like a fish takes to water.
In one of her earlier interviews, Dalilah recalled, “I knew I was Muslim, but I didn’t feel different from my friends. I was doing what I wanted to do, running around with my friends at the park and deciding things for myself under the umbrella of Islam. I didn’t realize how that freedom would shape my mind.”
Dalilah’s father had disclosed earlier, “Dalilah has always tried to be the best human being and the best athlete she can be. She’s trying to honor the gifts God gave her, trying to maximize her human potential. She was born that way. I just try not to change what’s in her.” Like father, like daughter.
The Journey of Success:
Dalilah Muhammad was a competitive track and field athlete during her High School years. She took part in sprints, high jump and hurdles. She arrived in great style at the 2007 World Youth Championships in Athletics. She won her first 400 m hurdles Gold medal. Her superb performance earned Dalilah Muhammad the “2007 Gatorade Female Athlete of the Year for New York State”. It was just the beginning of Dalilah’s successful journey.
In the year 2008, she made her mark, while graduating from Benjamin N. Cardoza High School, winning the New York State and Nike Outdoor Nationals’ titles in the 400m hurdles. In the same year, Dalilah Muhammad got a Sports Scholarship to enroll at the University of Southern California majoring in Business. She joined the USC Trojans Track Team. During her first season, she competed extensively.
Dalilah Muhammad finished second in the 400m hurdles at the Pacific-10 Conference meet. She clocked her Personal Best time of 13.79s in the 100m hurdles. She was part of the 4x400m relay team to finish fourth. At the 2008 NCAA Outdoor Championships, Dalilah bettered her personal best in 400m hurdles clocking 56.49s. She finished third in the final. She went onto win the National Junior title in 2008.
At the 2009 Pan American U20 Athletics Championships, Dalilah won the Silver medal in 400m hurdles. In her second year at the USC, Dalilah repeated her performance at the Pacific-10 Championships. In the year 2011, she was once again the runner-up at the Pacific-10 Championships. She clocked her PB of 56.04s in the semi-finals at the NCAA meet. In the final, she finished in sixth place.
The year 2012 saw the emergence of a new Dalilah Muhammad. She bettered her PB clocking 8.23s for the 60m hurdles and 13.33s in the 100m hurdles. At the Pacific-12 Championships, Dalilah Muhammad was placed third in the 400m hurdles. She finished fifth at the NCAA meet. She ran at the 2012 United States Olympics trials. She graduated from the University of Southern California to end her career as a USC Trojans athlete with the school’s third fastest ever 400m hurdler. She also recorded a four-time NCAA All-American.
Dalilah Muhammad turned professional soon after her graduation. In the year 2013, she clocked 54.94s to improve on her PB. She made her IAAF Diamond League debut to finish fourth clocking 54.74s. At the Memorial Primo Nebiolo in Italy, Dalilah Muhammad won the Gold medal. At the Bislett Games in Norway, Dalilah bettered her PB to clock 54.33s.
At the 2013 USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships, Dalilah Muhammad improved her personal best time clocking 53.83s. She won her first National title in the 400m hurdles. Nike has been associated with Dalilah Muhammad since 2013. At the 2014 USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships, she was disappointed and did not start.
The 2015 season was a disappointing one for Dalilah as she finished 7th clocking 57.31s at the 2015 USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships. She bounced back the next season to win the top spot at the 2016 United States Olympic Trials clocking an impressive time of 52.88s. The year 2016 belonged to Dalilah Muhammad as she went onto win her first Olympic Gold medal at the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics in the 400m hurdles.
Dalilah Muhammad has certainly come a long way from that 4-year-toddler. At the 2017 USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships, she defended her title clocking her personal best of 52.64s. It is interesting to note that Dalilah Muhammad is only the second woman in the history after British Sally Gunnell to have won the Olympic title and broken the 400m hurdle World Record.