Dalilah Muhammad says she is relishing the pressure of trying to break her own world record as she aims to add a World Championships gold medal to her 2016 Olympics 400m hurdles crown.
The 29-year-old New Yorker stunned the athletics world in July when she obliterated one of the longest-standing records in women’s track and field during the US trials, storming to victory in 52.20sec.
Muhammad’s display sliced more than one tenth of a second off the previous record of 52.34sec, set by Russia’s Yuliya Pechonkina in 2003, and has led many wondering if the 52-second barrier may fall.
Muhammad, a silver medallist at the 2013 and 2017 world championships, is undaunted by the challenge of breaking her own world mark.
“I’m always aiming to run my absolute best,” Muhammad said in Doha on Thursday. “And it just so happens that my absolute best would be another world record.
“It adds a little bit of pressure to the race, sure. But it makes you want to run fast. It makes you want to go out there and prove what you said – so why not?”
Muhammad is buoyed by the fact that her record-breaking run in Iowa came after a slow start.
“I just need to be a little bit faster at each point,” she said. “My race was pretty good. But the start wasn’t that great.
“I think putting my better start with that race is going to end up with a faster time.”
Spurring Muhammad towards a possible new record is a phenomenally talented pool of American women who could well end up sweeping the podium in Doha.
As well as 2017 defending champion Kori Carter, there is Sydney McLaughlin and Ashley Spencer, who have the second and third fastest times in the world this year, at 52.85sec and 53.11sec respectively.
“I can definitely say it’s the deepest we’ve ever been,” Muhammad said. “We push each other. We know that if any of us have a mistake on any given day you’re likely to not win.
“So if you’re not perfect or don’t run a good race, you’re not likely to win. I enjoy that pressure though.”
The 20-year-old McLaughlin, who beat Muhammad in the Diamond League final in Zurich last month as well as at the Oslo Diamond League meeting in June, represents the biggest threat.
“We don’t have too much of a relationship,” Muhammad said of McLaughlin. “We’re very supportive of one another I think we definitely see each other as competition.”
Muhammad meanwhile hopes that this year’s race can produce another lucky number.
After setting the world record in July she realised that her winning time – 52.20sec – had a special significance.
“You know what is so crazy? My winning time was the PIN number for my first credit card,” she said. “I never even thought about it until I ran that time and I thought ‘Wow, that used to be my PIN number.'”