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From Olympics to fashion, Sydney McLaughlin’s rise is just beginning

(Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Sydney McLaughlin isn’t planning to think much about running or the Olympics this month. After returning home from Tokyo last Monday, she did laundry, re-packed and left again for vacation with her family.

That time for relaxation is an important part of McLaughlin’s journey, which up until now has been a nonstop ascent. In just five years, the 22-year-old has turned professional, competed in two Olympic Games, won two gold medals and set a world record in the 400-meter hurdles.

Now, McLaughlin can add fashion designer and businesswoman to that list. The American track star on Monday revealed her first footwear and apparel collection in partnership with New Balance. The inspiration for the fashion line aligns with McLaughlin’s own sensational career.

“My dad, ever since I was young, he’s always told me to be the butterfly,” she told Just Women’s Sports last week. “It symbolizes growth and becoming who you’re meant to be, this beautiful creation. I look at butterflies as rare, as hard to catch, very unique, no two are the same, and that’s one of the main mottoes of the collection: ‘Be the first you.’

“So it’s really a beautiful representation of myself and my style and the things that I truly believe in and stand for.”

McLaughlin embodied the “butterfly” no better than in this past year.

In June, she became the first woman to break 52 seconds in the 400m hurdles when she won the event at the United States Olympic Trials in 51.90 seconds. She beat her own time earlier this month at the Tokyo Olympics, winning gold and setting a new world record with a time of 51.46 seconds. McLaughlin followed that up with another gold medal in the 4x400m relay alongside U.S. teammates Allyson Felix, Dalilah Muhammad and Athing Mu.

McLaughlin was just 16 when she competed in her first Olympics in Rio, where she failed to qualify for the final in the 400m hurdles. She leaned on that experience heading into Tokyo.

“I felt a lot more confident going into this one mentally,” she said.

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(Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

Last summer, McLaughlin started training with Bobby Kersee, who’s coached athletes in the past 11 Olympics, and alongside Felix. The 35-year-old, who’s now the most decorated track and field Olympian in U.S. history, helped McLaughlin learn to trust the timing.

“People run really fast, really early in the season, so I was a little bit nervous about where our training was at,” McLaughlin said. “And [Felix] just reminded me that Bobby knows what he’s doing. She’s seen it for so many years now, that he’ll have us ready when the moment matters, which he did.”

When McLaughlin crossed the finish line of the 400m hurdle race in Tokyo, gold medal secured, she looked almost emotionless. She hugged Muhammad, who finished just behind her to win silver, before dropping to the track and looking up to the sky.

“I was just in my head thanking God for getting me across the line,” she said. “In the moment, I was just so grateful for the opportunity to bring this gold home for not only my family but also my coach.

“This is an event that he loves and he’s never had a gold medalist. So just being able to do that for him and check this off his list, I was really excited and happy for that.”

McLaughlin knows she hasn’t achieved so much so quickly without her support system. That includes New Balance, the shoe company she signed with in 2018 right after leaving the University of Kentucky and turning professional.

“It’s just like family, honestly. I’ve worn their stuff ever since I was in high school and they’ve been so supportive and friendly from the jump,” she said. “So when it came time to truly choose the company that would be behind me on and off the track, it was honestly a no-brainer.”

McLaughlin worked with New Balance to design each piece of the new collection. In addition to leaning heavily into the theme of butterflies, she focused on her personal style.

The collection features a stylish hooded shrug, a sleek crop bra, a crossbody bag and a jumpsuit among other items, all with the intention of giving customers the option to go from a run to a night out on the town.

“I never leave the house without a fanny pack or hat, so I definitely had to make sure those things were in there,” McLaughlin said. “From there, just athletic wear that’s also comfortable and some leisure pieces. Truly looking at my own wardrobe and what represents my style and then building from there.”

McLaughlin and her team at New Balance started planning this collection about two years ago. They pushed the release back to 2021 after COVID-19 forced the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics, originally scheduled for last summer.

“From the first meeting to the final approval process, Syd has been so engaged in bringing this to life. Her drive on the track easily transitioned to the design of this collection,” said Rachel Walder, New Balance apparel designer. “We know this is just the beginning for Syd and we’re excited to play a part in her journey on and off the track.”

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(Courtesy of New Balance)

“I truly loved designing and making something that I can call my own,” McLaughlin said. “It’s definitely something I was looking forward to doing, and if I get the opportunity again, I will take advantage of it, for sure.”

Fashion and business might be in McLaughlin’s long-term future, but she’s not thinking about that just yet. There’s still so much left for her to accomplish on the track.

McLaughlin’s profile rises with each medal and record-setting performance. Whenever she starts to feel the weight of the expectations that come with that level of success, she thinks about what’s gotten her to this point: the journey, the evolution, the metamorphosis of a butterfly.

“For me personally, pressure is this expectation of something possibly taking place, whether it’s me losing or not placing where I want to place,” McLaughlin said. “But most of the time, these thoughts that we have end up never even really happening.

“So it’s just removing the weight, having the confidence in the positive things that I want to take place and speaking those into existence.”

Serena Williams is ‘super interested’ in owning a WNBA team

Serena Williams speaks on stage during keynote conversation at 2019 conference in San Jose, California
The tennis icon is all in on women's sports — and the WNBA is right on her heels. (Photo by Marla Aufmuth/WireImage via Getty Images)

Could Serena Williams co-own a WNBA team in the near future? 

Speaking with CNN on Monday, Williams expressed her interest in that potential — as well as the mounting enthusiasm for women’s sports around the world. 

"I think women’s sport is having a moment that it should have always had," Williams said. "I feel like tennis has had its moment. It’s international, and it’s huge, and it’s always gonna be there.

"Now it’s time to lift up other sports — women’s soccer, women’s basketball — there’s so many other sports that women do so great, let’s put it on that platform. Women’s basketball is getting there, and it’s arrived."

When asked if she had any interest in adding a WNBA team to her roster of ownership stakes, the tennis great welcomed the idea. "I absolutely would be," Williams said. "With the right market, I would definitely be super interested in that."

"There is no risk — women’s sport is exciting," Williams added, citing the 2024 NCAA women's tournament's record-breaking viewership as evidence. "People are realizing that it is exciting to watch, so it's an overly safe bet."

Williams may not need to wait long to act on that bet. On Monday, WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said that she is "pretty confident" the league will expand to 16 teams — up from its current 12 — by 2028. 

The goal, she said, is to reach 14 by 2026. Oakland's Golden State is already on track to launch the league's 13th team in 2025. The move will mark the WNBA's first new franchise since the Atlanta Dream debuted in 2008.

"It's complex because you need the arena and practice facility and player housing and all the things," Engelbert said at a press conference before Monday's WNBA draft. "You need committed long-term ownership groups, and so the nice thing is we're getting a lot of calls."

Engelbert went on to name a few of the cities behind those calls, saying that the league continues to engage in discussions with Philadelphia, Toronto, Portland, Denver, and Nashville, as well as South Florida.

"These can either take a very long time to negotiate or it can happen pretty quickly if you find the right ownership group with the right arena situation," Engelbert added.

The Commissioner's 16 team goal is not only good news for WNBA fans, it's great news for current and future WNBA players. At 12 teams with just 12 roster spots each, the league is held to a total of 144 players for any given season. An abundance of fresh talent coming up through the NCAA ranks has put pressure on the organization to make room for more worthy competitors, and four additional teams might be just the ticket.

Hellen Obiri claims back-to-back Boston Marathon wins

Hellen Obiri, winner of the women's division of the Boston Marathon, poses with the Boston Marathon trophy
Hellen Obiri, winner of the 2024 Boston Marathon's women's division, poses with her trophy. (Photo by Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Kenyan runner Hellen Obiri won the 128th Boston Marathon on Monday, becoming the first woman to claim back-to-back titles since 2005.

She clocked a total time of 2 hours, 27 minutes, and 37 seconds in a women's division that race organizers described as "historically fast."

"Defending the title was not easy," Obiri said. "Since Boston started, it's only six women [that have repeated]. If you want to be one of them, you have to work extra hard. And I'm so happy because I'm now one of them — I'm now in the history books."

A two-time Olympic silver medalist and two-time 5000m world champion, Obiri is a clear favorite in this summer’s Paris Olympics.

“Last year I was pretty familiar to the marathon, but this year my training was perfect — we trusted everything we were doing,” Obiri said. “When we won last year, of course I was saying I’m going to win this one. Winning is like love. It’s something precious to me.”

Though, she wasn’t without a challenge. Fellow Kenyan Sharon Lokedi finished a mere eight seconds behind Obiri. Edna Kiplagat, who won the 2017 Boston Marathon, completed the podium sweep for Kenya with a third place finish.

Emma Bates, the race's top American finisher, came in 12th.

Obiri wasn't alone in making Boston Marathon history this year. The repeat champ walked away with $150,000 in total prize money allocated from a purse that topped $1 million for the first time ever. 

College rivals Angel Reese, Kamilla Cardoso drafted to the Chicago Sky

Angel Reese and Kamilla Cardoso competing at the NCAA SEC Conference Tournament Championship
Once rivals, Angel Reese and Kamilla Cardoso are now teammates. (Jim Dedmon/USA TODAY Sports)

The Chicago Sky made a splash in Monday night’s WNBA draft, taking Kamilla Cardoso and Angel Reese in the first round. 

South Carolina’s Cardoso, who was the 2024 Final Four Most Outstanding Player, went third to the Sky. The day before, the team had swapped picks with the Minnesota Lynx to land the No. 7 pick as well, which they used on Reese, the 2023 Final Four MOP.

Now, the two will team up in Chicago after battling each other in both college and high school

"She’s a great player, and I’m a great player. Nobody's going to get no rebounds on us," Cardoso joked afterwards, while Reese expressed excitement about playing under new Sky head coach Teresa Weatherspoon.

"Being able to be a Black woman and as a head coach, and everything she's done at the NBA level, I just knew everything they were bringing to the table," Reese said of the Sky. "Player development is something that I was looking for and they looked for in me. I'm super excited for this move."

Former NBA star and Chicago Sky co-owner Dwayne Wade welcomed the pair to Chicago.

“The foundation is set,” he wrote.

The Sky have entered re-building mode after winning a WNBA title in 2021. This offseason, they traded franchise cornerstone Kahleah Copper to the Phoenix Mercury for a package that included the No. 3 picked used on Cardoso.

Now, Cardoso and Reese will be looking to jump-start the team's return to contention.

Watch: Iowa star Kate Martin’s draft moment goes viral

Kate Martin poses with Cathy Engelbert after being drafted by the Las Vegas Aces during the 2024 WNBA Draft in New York
2nd-round pick Kate Martin poses with Cathy Engelbert Commissioner of the WNBA at the 2024 draft. (Photo by Catalina Fragoso/NBAE via Getty Images)

Former Iowa captain Kate Martin was in the audience during Monday night’s draft when she was selected 18th overall by the Las Vegas Aces. 

The moment quickly went viral, as Martin was in the crowd to support superstar teammate Caitlin Clark going No. 1 overall, and was not one of the 14 players invited to the draft.

"To be honest, I don't think I'd have the type of career if I don't have a teammate like Kate," Clark said about Martin leading up to the 2024 national championship game. "She's been one that has had my back. She holds me accountable. I hold her accountable. But I think at the same time, me and Kate are wired so similarly that we get each other on a different level."

Martin being drafted marks the first time that Iowa has had two players selected in the same WNBA draft since 1998.

“She's one of the best leaders I've been around," Clark said. "She wants the best for her teammates. She's one of the most selfless people."

Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said Monday that she is “so proud” of her player, “because her dreams came true.”

"She has been such a big part of our program over the last six years,” she said. “Her efforts did not go unnoticed by her peers. I wish Kate all the success with this next step.”

Martin said afterward that she’s “excited for the opportunity” and to showcase her “really good” work ethic. Helping Iowa to back-to-back NCAA title games, Martin finished her college career with 1,299 points, 756 rebounds and 473 assists.

“There are a lot of emotions right now,” Martin said in an interview on ESPN. “I’m really happy to be here. I was here to support Caitlin, but I was hoping to hear my name called. All I wanted was an opportunity and I got it. I’m really excited.”

While Martin was watching from the crowd, her family was watching from back home.

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