If you don’t know who Sydney McLaughlin is, you’re clearly not watching the Olympics or watching the news, are you? She’s the youngest person to participate in the Olympics in over thirty years. That means that the last time someone as young as she is was part of the games, I was not even alive. She’s only 16 – though there are some other young athletes in the games now and in the past – but her birthday falls just right to allow her to claim the spot as the youngest in three decades. She’s good, too. she’s a hurdler, which means she runs and she jumps and she does it really well. While we admittedly don’t understand how anyone decides they’re good at this, we do admire her tenacity, her sheer talent and her athletic prowess; it’s a lot of really amazing qualities in a girl so young.
She’s a trendsetter
In case you thought hurdling was the only thing that Sydney McLaughlin was good at, you’d be mistaken. She’s a juggler, too. In fact, she loves to juggle so much that she started a club at her high school and other people actually joined to hang out with her. It’s not exactly the coolest sport in the world, so we are impressed she took the time to do it and make that happen.
She’s never lost a race
Sydney McLaughlin is a young woman who is more than just a little bit good. Her coach recognized it right away in her when they met, and she’s never lost a race in school. She’s never lost in school, and she and her coach attribute that to the fact that she’s just that good at what she does. She trains hard and she makes it a point to know that she has to or she won’t succeed at what it is that she loves most.
She’s always dreamed of the Olympics
The only thing is that Sydney McLaughlin didn’t think she’d actually make it to them until around 2020. She wasn’t sure she’d be good enough this young to make it this year but when she qualified, she figured she must be pretty darn good to make it at only 16. She took the world up on their offer and here she is making waves in Rio.
But she skipped the opening ceremonies
Since she turned 17 during the opening ceremonies, she made the executive decision to stay home for the parties and celebrations she could have with her friends. She knows that she only gets to celebrate her birthday once a year, but that she will get to compete no matter how late she is to the opening ceremonies. She did receive some criticism for not making it to the opening ceremonies, but she knows what’s important to her and living life with regrets is not something she’s willing to do.
She doesn’t have a license
She’s only 17 now; she turned 17 a week ago when she first appeared in the Olympics, and she doesn’t even have a license yet. She’s not even in her senior year of high school yet, though she will be when she returns home from the games and begins her new school year. It’s just a testament to how young she really is.
She’s not worried about her athletic body
When a girl is this young, she might be a little concerned that focusing so much on her athletic career might make her body different than anyone else’s. The good news for Sydney McLaughlin, however, is that she doesn’t actually care that her body is not the typical body of a teenage girl. She knows her muscles and her strength are a testament of how hard she works and how well she takes care of herself, and that is what is important to her; we love that about her.
She’s a high school student with a busy social life and a lot of training to do, but she knows that giving back is important. She volunteers for something called Hope Worldwide, which is a charity that makes sure that the people in New Jersey, where she lives, are able to have emergency supplies when horrible things happen. She’s part of the Hurricane Sandy recovery effort, and it’s very important to her to give back.
Everyone in her family runs
Well, maybe not everyone. She’s got a family of athletes, though. Her father is willie, and he to the 1984 Olympic Trials. He didn’t quite make it, but he did make it to the semifinals. He had Olympic dreams, too, and you cannot imagine how proud he is of his daughter actually making it to Rio to compete in the games at this age. He’s living a bit vicariously through her, of course, but that’s what parents do. Did we mention that her older brother attends the University of Michigan, and he is also a hurdler?
She loves minions
My 5-year-old daughter and my 33-year-old husband also find minions entertaining. They’ll always laugh at them. Sydney McLaughlin knows that she has to take with her a lucky blanket that she feels will keep her safe and make sure she’s comfortable to compete. It’s a minions blanket, and that’s kind of awesome. I guess she was quite young with the minions came out, so she would love them more than most people might assume.
She’s very humble
Sydney McLaughlin is a girl who is not too conceited about her skill. She knows she’s good, but she had no idea she was good enough to make it to the Olympics just yet, and she actually had a kind of breakdown during the trials that allowed her to actually made it to the Olympics. She said her coach had to stop her and tell her that she’s good enough to be there, so she’s good enough to go out and beat everyone else so that she could make world records and history. She listened, and she is glad she did.
Photo by ABC