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EUGENE, Ore.: Most runners, throwers and jumpers at the upcoming world championships need only look left or right to see where the biggest challenges lie.

For a select few, the main competition will be the clock.

A year after records fell fast and furiously at the Olympics, track and field returns to the world stage in one of the sport’s favorite grounds: Eugene, Oregon.

The city called “TrackTown USA” was put on the map by a great middle-distance runner, Steve Prefontaine, and then maintained by a colossus named Nike. It now boasts an upgraded $270 million stadium – the iconic Hayward Field – which has a very fast track for this, the first world championships to be held on American soil.

Eugene was scheduled to host in 2021, but the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the Olympics by a year, which also pushed the track and field schedule back by a year.

“There is always a chance that records will fall during championships, but at the same time you can never command them,” said Norwegian Karsten Warholm, who broke the 400m hurdles world record twice l last summer, including leaving where he is today. , 45.94 seconds, when he won gold at the Tokyo Games. “For me, when I go to the championships, it’s all about racing for the medals. If a world record is needed, I hope it will be me who takes it.

22-year-old hurdler Sydney McLaughlin, 22, is almost certain to headline the 10-day competition, which begins on Friday with the marching medals and the mixed 4×400 meters relay. It’s not hyperbole to say that she’s a threat not only to win, but also to break a world record every time she sets foot on Hayward’s red track which features a force reduction surface. .

On June 25 at the U.S. Championships, also in Eugene, McLaughlin lowered his 400-meter record to 51.41 seconds. Last year, on the same track at the Olympic trials, she set a world record (51.90) – a record she would lower almost six weeks later on an equally fast track in Tokyo (51.46 ).

She’s being pushed by reigning world champion Dalilah Muhammad, who held the record before McLaughlin and took silver in Tokyo. Olympic bronze medalist Femke Bol of the Netherlands is also in the game.

“You’re going to have to run really fast for the gold,” Bol said after McLaughlin’s latest world record. “Because it shows that Sydney is in great shape.”

Ryan Crouser won Olympic gold in Tokyo last year, but his shot put world record – 23.37 meters – was set at Hayward, leading many to believe ‘Hayward Magic’ isn’t just about new track composites.

Jamaican sprint star Elaine Thompson-Herah – dominant, like her compatriot Usain Bolt – threatens to break one of the most legendary marks in history: the 10.49 run by Florence Griffith-Joyner in 1988. It is not no surprise that Thompson-Herah’s personal best of 10.54 was set last August – three weeks AFTER the Olympics – at the Prefontaine Classic in Hayward. She and Flo-Jo are the only women to exceed 10.6.

Don’t overlook Thompson-Herah’s biggest rival, teammate Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, whose best time is 10.6 seconds. She is, after all, the reigning world champion.

At the very least, Marion Jones’ nearly 23-year-old world championship record of 10.70 seconds could drop.

Some other stories to watch in Oregon:

Jacobs vs. Kerley

In Tokyo, Italian Marcell Jacobs edged out American Fred Kerley for the Olympic gold medal. In Eugene, Kerley is the favorite.

Kerley has the fastest time this season as Jacobs recovers after sustaining a glute muscle injury. Jacobs is yet to break the 10-second mark this season, while Kerley has dipped below that time on seven occasions.

“I have a very good friendship with Fred, so I’m very happy when I saw him compete very well,” Jacobs said heading into a Diamond League tie in Sweden last month before choosing to withdraw as a preventive measure. “Fred is running faster this year but I’m still able to express myself when it really matters. I am confident at the world championships.

Also on the court are defending champion Christian Coleman, who missed the Olympics due to a suspension for missed doping tests, and Olympic bronze medalist André De Grasse of Canada.

rare air

Mondo Duplantis’ hashtag on Instagram is apropos: “#BornToFly”.

The Olympic pole vault champion who grew up in Louisiana, attended LSU and represents Sweden cleared 6.16 meters (20-2 1/2) in a Diamond League meet last month in Stockholm for improve his own outdoor world record. He surpassed his previous mark of 6.15, set in Rome in 2020 – when he surpassed 26-year-old Sergey Bubka’s outdoor record.

Duplantis holds the world indoor record of 6.20 (20ft, 4in), set at the world indoor championships in Serbia this year.

The 22-year-old was a silver medalist at the world championships in 2019.

The legend of the meadow

Count Norwegian Olympic 1,500-meter champion Jakob Ingebrigtsen as a fan of the late Prefontaine, who died in a car crash in 1975 at age 24 near the University of Oregon track where he became a star. Ingebrigtsen heard stories and watched some of the Prefontaine races.

“He seemed like a cool guy, kind of the same mindset that I see myself having,” Ingebrigtsen said. “Trying to leave everything on the trail.”

End of the Felix era

In a mixed 4×400 relay on Friday, Allyson Felix is ​​set to run for the last time as the 36-year-old retires. His 18 medals are the most in world championship history.

“I want to have fun and really enjoy the moment,” Felix said.

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