'Pressure's an illusion': McLaughlin destroys 400m hurdles heat, advances

TOKYO, JAPAN - JULY 31: Sydney McLaughlin of Team United States competes in round one of the Women's 400m hurdles heats on day eight of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Olympic Stadium on July 31, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images) (Getty Images)

American Sydney McLaughlin, world record-holder in the women's 400m hurdles, crushed her heat Saturday in Japan during the event's prelims at the Tokyo Games, advancing to Monday's semifinals as the fourth-fastest qualifier.

The 21-year-old essentially jogged through the finish line in 54.65.

Last month McLaughlin took down teammate Dalilah Muhammad's all-time best in the event, clocking 51.90 to become the first woman to ever go sub-52. The New Jersey native took silver behind Muhammad's world record at the 2019 World Championships in Doha.

"It was cool to just be able to get out there, shake out the rest, and get used to the environment, the air, the humidity, everything," she told NBC Sports' Lewis Johnson after the race. "I’d say it was a good first round. Things like [a false start] happen all the time, gotta be ready and prepared to respond." 

"Pressure’s an illusion, it’s what you make it," she said. "I’m just here to have fun and represent my country."

Muhammad finished as the round's quickest, taking heat five in 53.97.

Dutchwoman Femke Bol was the heat-four winner in 54.43.

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