Will Bol challenge McLaughlin-Levrone?
Last year’s Female Athlete of the Year, Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone, is phenomenal. However, it looks like Holland’s Femke Bol is about to challenge her. Her 2023 indoor performances indicate that she is just as fast and strong as McLaughlin-Levrone...
Last year’s Female Athlete of the Year, Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone, is phenomenal. However, it looks like Holland’s Femke Bol is about to challenge her. Her 2023 indoor performances indicate that she is just as fast and strong as McLaughlin-Levrone. Now, there’s just one conclusion: Bol could soon challenge the American queen of the 400 metres hurdles.
On February 4 in Boston, she broke the world record for 500 metres with a time of one minute 05.63 seconds. Then, on February 19, she zoomed 49.23 seconds for 400 metres on the 19th at the Dutch Indoor Championships to break a mark held by Czech superwoman Jarmila Kratochvilova since 1982.
Everyone, including me, thought that McLaughlin-Levrone’s 400m hurdles world record of 50.68 seconds was in a galaxy far, far away. It’s so good that if she set up a lane of hurdles in the flat 400 metre final at the last World Championships in Eugene, Oregon, she would have placed seventh. Even now, that knocks me off my feet.
However, Bol’s Boston blast made me think. She looked strong enough to break her hurdles personal best of 52.03 seconds and now, she is definitely fast enough to match McLaughlin-Levrone for speed.
The American has another asset. She can hurdle brilliantly. At the Penn Relays last April, she zoomed 12.75 seconds to win the 100 metres hurdles. No one even realised that she didn’t use her usual lead leg. In fact, the exercise was a test. It’s an advantage for 400m hurdlers to be able to alternate lead legs and at Penn, McLaughlin-Levrone passed the test with flying colours.
If Bol can improve her hurdling, the gap between them – approximately 1.6 seconds at the Worlds – will definitely close. If McLaughlin-Levrone leaves the hurdles to focus on the flat 400m, she might return to find that Bol has touched her hurdles benchmark.
Here’s why. Bol typically runs the mixed 4x400m relay at major championships, while McLaughlin-Levrone is resting her legs for the hurdles. In Tokyo at the Olympics, she stepped a 49.7 leg in the relay before her hurdles bronze. In Eugene, where she split McLaughlin and Muhammad with a time of 52.27, she began with a mixed relay anchor time of 49.85 seconds.
If she forgoes the mixed relay, she’ll have more energy for the hurdles.
A few weeks later, at the European Championships, she did a 400m/400m hurdles double and hustled her 4x400 anchor leg in 48.5 seconds!
To drive the point home, Bol won the European Indoor Championships 400 metre final in 49.85 seconds on March 5.
McLaughlin has run 4x400m splits in 48.8 and 47.9. It’s no wonder she fancies a shot at the flat 400m. However, with Bol running so well indoors, it might be wise to cover home base until after the 2024 Olympics.
Hubert Lawrence and the late John Messam staged the National Hurdles and Field Events Championships from 1989 to 2005.