January 25, 2019 / 11:14 PM / 25 days ago

Athletics: McLaughlin set to start pro career but not in hurdles

(Reuters) - American Sydney McLaughlin makes her professional debut on a Boston track on Saturday but it won’t be in the hurdles.

FILE PHOTO: 2016 Rio Olympics - Athletics - Preliminary - Women's 400m Hurdles Round 1 - Olympic Stadium - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 15/08/2016. Sydney McLaughlin (USA). REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach. Picture Supplied by Action Images/File Photo

The 19-year-old American will be chasing honours in her first 500 metres when the IAAF World Indoor Tour launches at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix.

But 2018’s fastest 400m hurdler told Reuters not to expect big times in what will be her only indoor meeting of the season.

“It’s kind of just shake the rust off,” McLaughlin said in a telephone interview. “Win or lose, I’m just trying to see where I am at. It’s January. I’m not expecting to run anything crazy.”

But there are goals.

“It’s not as much about racing as getting a feel for getting back and see how the new training is going to work out,” she said. “And being able to call myself a pro for the first time.”

Since the last outdoor season, when she became the joint-ninth fastest 400m hurdler of all time and set two world junior records, McLaughlin has moved to Los Angeles to train with Joanna Hayes, the 2004 Olympic 100m hurdles gold medallist.

“It’s a lot more attention to detail,” said McLaughlin, the U.S. collegiate record holder who competed for the University of Kentucky before turning pro. “I really like that aspect.”

She is also enjoying another benefit of moving.

“It’s really warm right now,” said the former New Jersey schoolgirl who remembers all too well the cold winters there.

While still developing her schedule for 2019, McLaughlin is looking forward to making the United States squad for the world athletics championships in Doha and another new experience.

“I have never made a world championships team,” said the 2016 Olympian.

“It would be amazing to do two things,” she said when asked about the possibility of also running the 4x400m relay.

“We’ve just out to make sure we are in the right frame of mind for my first event before we even consider that.”

A teenage phenomenon, McLaughlin showed her potential with a 400 hurdles time of 52.75 seconds in her first year in college that helped her win the IAAF female rising star award.

FILE PHOTO: Dec 20, 2018; San Antonio, TX, USA; Women's finalist Sydney McLaughlin (right) poses with coach Joanna Hayes at the 10th Bowerman Awards at the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports/File Photo

That’s closing in on the world record, 52.34 seconds, set in 2003 by Russia’s Yuliya Pechonkina.

Figuring out her stride pattern will be key to improving, McLaughlin said.

“Once we figure all of that out, and get the rhythm really down, I will feel a lot more comfortable and confident.”

Reporting by Gene Cherry in Raleigh, North Carolina

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