The way Sydney McLaughlin tells it, her nerves were shot prior to running in the 400-meter hurdles at the Olympic Trials in Oregon on July 10.
“I had a mental breakdown before my first event,” McLaughlin said after winning the Gatorade Female Athlete of the Year award lat month. “I called my dad and told him ‘I can’t do this. I’m 16 years old racing against grown women.’ ”
After a pep talk from her coach, McLaughlin lined up and made history, becoming the first 16-year-old to qualify for the Olympics since Rhonda Brady in 1976. She placed third at the U.S. Olympic trials in a world junior record time of 54.15.
Named the American Family Insurance ALL-USA Girls Track Athlete of the Year for her performance as a junior at Union Catholic in New Jersey, McLaughlin, who turned 17 last week, is ranked No. 4 among the world’s Olympic qualifiers.
Naturally, the magnitude of Monday night’s bigger stage could give-way to all-consuming nerves; how did McLaughlin say she was planning to combat inevitable jitters?
Two words: Junk food.
“I’m gonna eat a lot of it,” said McLaughlin, who will make her debut at 8:30 p.m. ET in the first round of the women’s 400-meter hurdles.
And when it’s time to lace ‘em up?
“Whatever happens, happens,” McLaughlin said matter of factly, noting she wasn’t focusing on time or where she places. “There’s so many more years to try again so whatever happens this year… It’s just about the experience.”
Follow Jason Jordan on Twitter: @JayJayUSATODAY