By Karen Price | Aug. 29, 2019, 5:05 p.m. (ET)

Sydney McLaughlin celebrating her first Diamond League Trophy win at the 2019 IAAF Diamond League finals on Aug. 29, 2019 in Zurich, Switzerland.

 

Sydney McLaughlin emerged from a star-studded field to lead a U.S. podium sweep in the women’s 400-meter hurdles as the first round of the Diamond League finals Thursday in Zurich, Switzerland.

McLaughlin, 20, competed at the Olympic Games Rio 2016 and is one of the rising stars in the sport. She just happens to compete in the same event as countrywoman Dalilah Muhammad, who won Olympic gold in Rio and recently set the world record.

The two met earlier this year in Diamond League competition with McLaughlin coming from behind to beat Muhammad with a late kick down the stretch. Then at the U.S. championships Muhammad got her payback by running away with the gold medal and setting a new world record time of 52.20 seconds.

On Thursday McLaughlin pulled away early and commanded the race en route to her first Diamond Trophy with a season’s best time of 52.85 seconds. Fellow American Shamier Little, the 2015 world silver medalist, was second with a time of 53.86 and Muhammad was third in 54.13 seconds.

“We have a great team in the USA,” McLaughlin said. “I am absolutely shocked and amazed.”

That race highlighted what was a strong day for U.S. athletes in Zurich, with four U.S. athletes winning Diamond Trophies. The Diamond League finals conclude Sept. 6 in Brussels, Belgium.

Donavan Brazier had perhaps the most dramatic win of the day, capturing the first Diamond Trophy by a U.S. athlete in the men’s 800-meter. For most of the race three-time Diamond Trophy winner Nijel Amos of Botswana held a big lead, but Brazier made his move coming out of the final turn. From eighth place at 400 meters to sixth place at 600 meters, he turned on the jets and passed competitors including 2018 Diamond League champion Emmanuel Korir of Kenya before setting his sights on Amos. With Amos running out of gas, Brazier looked like he could go another lap as he surged to the front and crossed the line in a personal best time of 1:42.70. Amos finished second in 1:42.98. Brazier’s time was the third-fastest in American history.

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Noah Lyles and reigning world champion Justin Gatlin went head-to-head in the men’s 100-meter final. Gatlin, a five-time Olympic medalist, won the only other meeting between the two this year in Monaco and started off strong on Thursday but the 37-year-old couldn’t sustain it the second half of the race.

The 22-year-old Lyles was the only runner to turn in a sub-10 time, finishing in 9.98 seconds for his first Diamond Trophy at the distance; he won the 200-meter title in 2017 and 2018. China’s Zhenye Xie was second and Gatlin fell to fourth with a time of 10.08 seconds.

Reigning world and U.S. champion Sam Kendricks won his second Diamond Trophy in pole vault, clearing 5.93 meters on his third and last attempt. The Olympic bronze medalist had won four of seven Diamond League meets coming into the final and crushed the U.S. record at the national championships earlier this year. Cole Walsh tied for third with a new personal best jump of 5.83 meters.

Women’s shot put national champion Chase Ealey took second with a personal best throw of 19.68 meters behind China’s Gong Lijiao Gong, who set a new world lead and meet record with a throw of 20.31 meters.

In another anticipated matchup, Karsten Warholm of Norway just edged Rai Benjamin in a close men’s 400-meter hurdles. Both ran under 47 seconds, with Warholm beating his own world-leading time to set a new mark at 46.92 seconds and Benjamin running a personal-best time of 46.98 seconds.

Bahrain’s Salwa Eid Naser ran away with the women’s 400-meter title, winning in 50.24 seconds, but the next closest to her was American Shakima Wimbley, who came in second in 51.21 seconds.

Diamond Trophy winners get $50,000 and a trophy, and U.S. athletes also earn spots in next month’s world championships unless the U.S. holds the world title in the event. If the winner is already qualified the spot will go to the athlete who’s next in line based on the results from the outdoor national championships.

Karen Price is a reporter from Pittsburgh who has covered Olympic sports for various publications. She is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.