McLaughlin hails Muhammad after breaking 400m hurdles record

From the outside, it was the ultimate clash of rivals - the 2016 Olympic champion Dalilah Muhammad facing off in the 400 metre hurdles final against 21-year-old Sydney McLaughlin, who clobbered her world record weeks prior.

But to McLaughlin, who won Olympic gold in yet another record-smashing performance of 51.46 seconds yesterday, the two Americans' race toward history goes much deeper than "rivalry".

"I just say iron sharpens iron. It's two people pushing each other to be their best," said McLaughlin, who finished 0.12sec ahead of Muhammad.

"You need that. I don't think it's a rivalry, there is no bad blood.

"It's just two athletes wanting to be their best and knowing there is another great girl who is going to get you there."

Their background is already the stuff of legend in the world of athletics.

McLaughlin celebrated her 17th birthday at the Rio Games but fell short of a spot in the final as Muhammad ascended to the top of the podium.

Three years later, McLaughlin was nipping at Muhammad's heels, finishing seven hundredths of a second behind at the 2019 World Championships as Muhammad won in a then-record 52.16.

McLaughlin obliterated that figure at the US trials in June, riding into Tokyo as the American champion amid sky-high expectations.

Yesterday's race mirrored the men's 400m hurdles final on Tuesday, when the top two - Norway's Karsten Warholm (45.94sec) and America's Rai Benjamin (46.17) - both smashed the world record of 46.70 that Warholm set last month.

"Just like the men's race, all three of our times would have won any Olympics, any other year," said Muhammad, 31. "I'm so proud to be part of that history and even more proud of my team mate, Sydney."

Dutchwoman Femke Bol took the bronze in 52.03. - REUTERS