"In Qatar, the record could fall again," Dalilah Muhammad said in late July. The US runner had just broken the world record over 400 meters hurdles - 52.20 seconds.
The old record held at least 16 years. But now Dalilah Muhammad was 14 hundredths of a second faster than the Russian Julia Pechonkina in 2003 at the US Championships in Des Moines. But why should the next best time fall in Qatar at the World Championships in Athletics? Only three months later, in October of all places?
In most years, many athletes are already resting this month, haggard from a long season of many competitions across the globe. But in 2019, the world elite had to make an exception for Qatar - because of the heat, the title fights should take place in October and not in September as usual. No time for world records - actually.
But Dalilah Muhammad was convinced of himself, and the 29-year-old should be right.
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Dalilah Muhammad and her world record
After the start of the 400-meter hurdles in Doha had died away, the spectators in Khalifa Stadium saw the duel that many had expected. At the top, Muhammad and Sydney McLaughlin, both American, both hunted so differently. The 20-year-old McLaughlin came closer and closer. "I felt that she was right behind me, but I just stayed focused," Muhammad later said. As a new world champion with a new world record, she had come to the press zone. 52.16 seconds - another four hundredths faster than in July.
Motivation problems between world records
The past months have not been easy for them, said Muhammad, the 2016 Olympic champion, at the press conference. Behind her was a mediocre competition in Zurich at the end of August, she had to struggle with small motivation problems after her world record in July, combined with the big question: What should come now? How do you stay motivated?
"I just kept training, I keep going out and doing my job," she said, and the contest was very fast that evening. "That probably had something to do with my world record."
If Muhammad speaks, then rather quiet. "It all came together today, you have to be lucky, so that's very nice," she said at her fabulous time. From her there are no loud announcements, no roar about their form and best performances, it almost always brings with it understatement.
Ahmed Jadallah / REUTERS
Even when cheering Muhammad often acts restrained
The daughter of an iman and a social worker does not need attention, she recently told The New York Times. She was of Muslim faith, but without being told to go outside, she never had a hijab, she told the newspaper. After her Olympic victory in 2016, she has registered that she plays a special role as a Muslim in American sports; she was increasingly asked about her belief or opinion of US President Donald Trump. "But to be honest, I do not always know the answers."
The hard year of the competitor
When Muhammad posts photos in the social networks, you usually see them in a quiet moment. 44,000 fans follow her on Instagram, for an Olympic champion, she runs rather behind. Her competitor McLaughlin markets offensively, with videos, in jubilation - she has over 400,000 fans on Instagram. There are still some to come, she is just at the beginning of her career. She is in the fast lane.
But behind the 20-year-olds is a tough year. McLaughlin was considered the favorite for victory ahead of Muhammad's World Record competition at the July US Championships. She had previously won all four of her athletics meetings this year. Before the World Cup, she won again in Zurich in the Diamond League. But in Doha, she had the disadvantage again. Your time: 52.23 seconds - that would have been world record three months ago.
Only at two finals McLaughlin did not reach the finish first this year - and after both races Muhammad had gone home with a new world record. Is that annoying? "Daliah has been around for so long, she can concentrate so well, I can learn a lot from her, and eventually my day will come," McLaughlin said after the race.
That does not sound like enmity in the team of hurdlers. No poisoned arrows like between Christian Coleman and Noah Lyles, the two US sprinters who like to bluff outwardly and openly over each other. It sounds more like an exciting sporting duel that will continue until the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
Whether it will then give her the next world record, Muhammad was still asked. "I do not know if I'm the favorite at all," she said.