Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone and Noah Lyles target world records in 2023

Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone and Noah Lyles
Americans Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone and Noah Lyles both won world outdoor titles on home soil in Eugene last year

World records come as no surprise to some of athletics’ biggest names – and one of Usain Bolt’s long-standing marks is under threat as a World Championships year gets under way.

American star Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone believes “anything is possible” following her record-breaking 400m hurdles triumph to win world gold in Eugene last year.

The 23-year-old will be joined by compatriot Noah Lyles, world 200m champion, in Boston for the second World Athletics Indoor Tour event of the season on Saturday, where both athletes will compete over 60m.

“It wasn’t a huge surprise,” said McLaughlin-Levrone on her record run.

“That was our goal all along. But it was a sigh of relief being able to accomplish it,” added the Olympic champion, speaking to BBC World Service.

Unbeaten over 200m in 2022, Lyles defended his 200m title in emphatic fashion as he broke Michael Johnson’s 26-year-old national record to become the third-fastest man over the distance in history.

And he believes beating Jamaican sprinting legend Bolt’s world record “will not be that hard”.

Switch possible as McLaughlin-Levrone targets ‘great things’

Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone
McLaughlin-Levrone claimed the first individual senior world title of her career at the 2022 World Championships

McLaughlin-Levrone, named World Athlete of the Year for 2022 alongside pole vaulter Armand Duplantis, produced her latest astonishing run as she took almost three-quarters of a second off her own 400m hurdles record to take world gold last year.

Improving her best time to 50.68 seconds in Eugene, she has now run five of the six fastest times in history.

That time over the hurdles would have placed her seventh in the final of the 400m flat.

The three-time world gold medallist’s stunning performances have led many to wonder when she might switch her attention to that event, in which Marita Koch’s record of 47.6 seconds has stood for 37 years.

“There’s room in both to accomplish great things and continue pushing my times,” said McLaughlin-Levrone, who will come up against world 200m champion Shericka Jackson on Saturday.

“I haven’t ran the 400 competitively in a few years. Once we decide what is best for 2023, that’s what we’ll do.

“I think anything is possible. It’s just a matter of preparation, determination and putting all the pieces together on the day.”

‘Like a scene from a movie’ – Lyles chasing Bolt’s record

Noah Lyles
Lyles’ world championship time was one hundredth of a second better than US legend Johnson’s run at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996

Lyles powered home in 19.31 seconds to lead an American clean sweep in the world final and edge closer to eight-time Olympic champion Bolt’s record mark of 19.19s set in 2009.

Not lacking in confidence, the 25-year-old, a bronze medallist at the Tokyo Olympics, said he knew “three weeks before” that he would win the world title.

“I always knew this was my race to win,” Lyles said.

“I remember I got down and prayed and all of a sudden I heard the crowd. I looked up at the clock and I just went crazy, out of my mind, it was like a scene from a movie.”

Only Bolt and the Jamaican’s former team-mate Yohan Blake (19.26s) stand between Lyles and history as he sets his sights on the all-time fastest 200m performances.

On chasing down Bolt’s record, Lyles said: “Personally, I know it’s crazy to say, but I don’t think it will be that hard.”

He added: “I say that because I know my own journey. The work that I did in 2022 was not as big as it could have been, we held back in training more than we should have.

“Now that we have a new benchmark we are attacking this as if I am a 19.3 runner – and I am being forced to train like one.”

It means all signs point towards potentially seismic moments when Lyles and McLaughlin-Levrone take to the start line at this year’s World Championships in Budapest in August.

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