Author’s Note: On Saturday, 2016 Olympian Sydney McLaughlin will be competing at the 2021 New Balance Grand Prix (live on NBC, 4-6 p.m. ET, and streaming here). It will mark McLaughlin’s first competition since the 2019 World Championships, where she won silver in the 400m hurdles and gold in the 4x400m relay.
Sydney McLaughlin knows exactly where she was the first time she met Allyson Felix.
It was June 2016 and McLaughlin – who had just completed her junior year at Union Catholic High School – was running around a track, believing she was there for a photoshoot. As McLaughlin ran by the bleachers, Felix stepped out from behind a pole, a big trophy in her arms.
“Hey Sydney,” Felix said casually, as though she had just run into an old friend at the grocery store. “Congratulations. I’m here to present to you: the Gatorade National Track & Field Athlete of the Year award.”
McLaughlin – clearly surprised and overcome with emotion – wasn’t able to say much in that moment. “She’s just holding the trophy. And I’m like, ‘What is happening?'” McLaughlin reflected to NBC Olympics research back in 2019. “I thought I was gonna die.” (The video footage of this first meeting can be found here.)
A few days later, both athletes competed at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials, with Felix earning a spot on her fourth Olympic team and McLaughlin qualifying for her first.
Their paths continued to cross. When McLaughlin turned pro in 2018, Felix’s brother Wes became her agent. Felix and McLaughlin have even been relay teammates, kind of. At the 2019 World Championships, both athletes walked away with gold medals from the 4x400m relay (though Felix only ran in the preliminary round and McLaughlin only ran the final).
These days, however, they see a lot more of each other.
On Friday, McLaughlin announced that she is now being coached by Bobby Kersee. (Since turning pro in 2018, McLaughlin had been working with Joanna Hayes, the 2004 Olympic gold medalist in the 100m hurdles.)
The coaching change means that McLaughlin now trains alongside Felix. While they have some workouts dedicated to their respective events, McLaughlin said they are able to do the bulk of their training together.
“I learn so much – every day of practice – just being out there and watching how she handles things,” McLaughlin said on Friday. “It’s been a really great experience being around both her and Bobby… [I’m trying to] soak up as much as I can as she’s at the end of her career.”
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