Hurdler Sydney McLaughlin, who celebrates her 17th birthday on August 7th, is going to Rio de Janeiro as the youngest American track and field athlete to compete in the Olympics since 1976.
The teenager is scheduled to graduate next year from Union Catholic High School in Scotch Plains, New Jersey, where she started a juggling club.
McLaughlin can twirl balls and bowling pins while riding a unicycle, and she says it would be amazing if juggling is one day made an Olympic sport.
For now, though, McLaughlin is focused on making her Olympic debut in the hurdles.
She qualified for the Rio Games by finishing third in the women’s 400-meters hurdles at last month’s USA Olympic Track & Field Trials, in a personal best and world junior record 54.15 seconds.
Sydney McLaughlin is a member of a very athletic family.
Her father, Willie, competed in the 400 meters in the 1984 USA Olympic Track & Field Trials.
He reached the semifinal round, but didn’t qualify for the Olympics that year in Los Angeles.
Meanwhile, her mother, Mary, was a runner in high school, and her older brother, Taylor, is a hurdler at the University of Michigan.
Sydney McLaughlin describes competing at last month’s Olympic Trials in Oregon as the single most stressful thing she’s ever done in her life.
Now she’s going to Brazil, where the pressure promises to be even more intense.
The heats in the women’s 400-meter hurdles begin on August 15th in Rio, and the final is August 18th.
Even if she doesn’t win a medal at the Olympics, the young hurdler looks ready to wave the American flag high at future international competitions.