As I was making a cup of coffee to keep me working during the midnight to 4 am shift to cover day 3 of European Athletics Indoors remotely from Wisconsin, Deji Ogeyingbo sent me a piece on Femke Bol, all the way from Nigeria. Deji had stayed up all night and was quite enthusiastic about his editor posting the piece asap. 

Deji was right, it is wonderful and it is a great appreciation of the amazing Femke Bol and what her 400m and 500m world records add to her fitness and racing tools! Thanks, Deji! 

How Femke Bol is closing in on Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone’s stranglehold in the women’s 400mH after her latest win in Istanbul

How do you stop an absolute phenom like Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone? Well, you just hope she falters. At least in the hurdles in which she dominates, there is a one in ten chance that might happen in big races. But it hasn’t before. In fact, the American has gone on to lower the world record twice in the span of one calendar year. Do you settle like most of Usain Bolt’s or Michael Johnson’s rivals did, or as a competitor, you just have to find a way to get better? 

ISTANBUL, TURKEY – MARCH 04: Femke Bol of the Netherlands celebrates alongside Lieke Klaver of the Netherlands after winning the Women’s 400m Final during Day 2 of the European Athletics Indoor Championships at the Atakoy Arena on March 04, 2023, in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

The latter is what Dutch sprinter Femke Bol is doing at the moment, and her latest victory in the women’s 400m at the European indoor championships in Istanbul further accentuates the level she’s at the moment. There is just no stopping her. Less than two weeks after she blazed to a world indoor record of 49.26s, Bol stormed to her sixth European title with a 49.85s victory in the women’s 400m. 

“Coming to Istanbul with a world record, I could feel that everybody wanted me to go even faster and expected that I could,” said Bol. “Unfortunately, it is harder than it might look. I have multiple European titles, but the world title is still missing. The world record is step one.”

Kevin Morris, New Balance Indoor Grand Prix Track & Field
Boston, Massachusetts, USA
February 3, 2023
World Athletics Indoor Tour Gold meeting, photo by Kevin Morris

The win wasn’t a surprise, really. After all, Bol is the reigning record-holder in the indoor 400m and the reigning Diamond League champion over the 400 mH. However, where it matters most- at the Olympic Games and World Championships is where she usually comes unstuck. Both her losses to McLaughlin-Levrone have come at these competitions. But as we’ve seen in the last couple of weeks, it’s all coming together for Bol. Whether we like it or not,  this is a reincarnation of the Dutch star and has surely closed the gap on her American rival.

Unlike Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone, who has raced just once this year over the 60m, Bol has a plethora of races under her belt this year already, and we are just at the beginning of March. Nothing to get worried about here, especially for folks who fear a burn-out leading into the world championships in Budapest in August. It has been her signature style, and it works.

Femke Bol won 3 gold medalists in the 2022 European Outdoor Athletics Championships, photo by European Athletics.

Bol had run the 200m, 400m, and 500m indoors this year, breaking records in the last two. The world championships silver medallists set the 500m indoor world record at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix with her time of 1:05.63. Her statement after the win rather indicates why she’s pushing hard at these distances indoors.

“I think it’s really for my 400m hurdles,” she said. “You need a strong last part, and I’m working on getting the 40’s right. So that’s for the first part, so it’s good to keep the last 100 meters also in the back of my head to be strong.”

Femke Bol, Olympic bronze medalist, 400m hurdles,
World Athletics Championships
Eugene, Oregon, USA
July15-26, 2022
400m hurdles, Bol, Netherlands, photo by Kevin Morris

So, the question remains. Would Bol switch to the 400m outdoors or will she challenge Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone in the 400 mH one more time? There is an increasing chance that both could give her the much-coveted Gold as a world champion. 

The women’s 400m isn’t that stacked up like it used to be in the past. In fact, her current personal best of 49.44s which she ran at the European Championships in Munich last year, would have been just about enough to get her a silver medal at the world champs in Oregon. But more importantly, is her improvement in the span of four months. 

Femke Bol sets World record at 500 meters! New Balance Indoor Grand Prix Track & Field
Boston Massachusetts, USA
February 3, 2023
World Athletics Indoor Tour Gold meeting, photo by Kevin Morris

Bol’s win in Istanbul saw her become the first woman to break 50 seconds three times in one indoor season. Surely, with the indoor bends taking a few hundredths of a second indoors, there is a chance that Bol could run approximately 48.5s outdoors. Shaunae Miller-Uibo, the current world, and Olympic champion in the event, will be out for the year, and former world champion Salwa Eid-Naser is just returning from a doping bad and might be rusty. The window of opportunity for Bol to capitalize is huge. 

Femke Bol flies on 4x400m in Istanbul, photo by Chiara Montesano for European Athletics

Her signature event is perhaps where is a tad difficult to predict due to McLaughlin-Levrone’s lack of wiliness to commit to many races in a championship year. Bol has a Personal Best of 52.03 over the distance, with her American rival clocking a world record of 50.68s. The margin isn’t as wide as it used to be again, and Bol’s latest win further indicates this. Whatever happens this summer, we are in for a blast. 



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