Kendra Harrison Breaks 28-yr-old Sprint Hurdles World Record

The look on Kendra Harrison’s face after winning the 100m hurdles at the Diamond League meeting in London yesterday (July 22) was priceless. Her usually emotionless facial expression slowly transformed into a smile as her countrywoman Nia Ali hugged her and directed her attention to the giant TV screen that showed her winning time of 12.20 (0.3m/s) as the new world record. With mouth wide open, Harrison could hardly stand as she released tears of joy while her rivals congratulated her.

Harrison’s time clipped 0.01sec from one of the oldest records, which was set by Bulgarian Yordanka Donkova in 1988, five years before Harrison was born. Both races were won in similar flawless fashion; both Donkova and Harrison also opened a massive gap between them and their nearest rivals.

The 23-yr-old American, who this season became the second-fastest sprint hurdler of all time when she previously broke the American record of 12.24 on May 28 at the Prefontaine Classic in Oregon, had been tipped to break the world record, perhaps at the Rio Olympics, but disaster struck earlier this month when she crashed into a hurdle and fell at the US Olympics Trials, ending whatever dream she harbored about Rio.

As if sharing a feeling she might have had, the diminutive former cheerleader told the press conference in London Thursday (21) that “only the record will make up for missing out on Rio.”

In her semi-final race 90 minutes before the final, Harrison barely issued warning of what was ahead when she registered 12.40. After crossing line in the final, the time clock showed 12.58, and her nonchalant reaction was one that suggested it was just another win for her. Suddenly, the correct time of 12.20 lit up with the letters WR next to it, and the massive stadium crowd stood and cheered as Harrison knelt on the track and covered her face in disbelief.

In the wake of destroying a high quality field that included her compatriots Ali, Brianna Rollins, Kristi Catlin, and Jasmin Stowers, Harrison said: “I wanted to come out here with a vengeance to show these girls what I have, even though I won’t be going to the Olympics. That 12.40 got my confidence back. I knew I had it in me. I ran as hard as I could, and look what happened.”