29 March, 2020

MAG Magic: Kendra Harrison

  • (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

Weeks after failing to qualify for the Olympics, Kendra Harrison had a point to make. And she made it in style.

To warm the hearts of athletics fans at this challenging time, we're taking a look back at some of the magical moments in the recent history of the Muller Anniversary Games.

Where better to start than with the first and only world record to be set at the leading Wanda Diamond League meet. 

Destined for greatness

Back in 2016, Kendra Harrison had only been professional for a year but had already shown signs of star potential.

She announced herself by placing a close second to 2008 Olympic champion Dawn Harper-Nelson in the 100m hurdles at the US Championships in 2015.

That performance got Harrison to the 2015 World Championships in Beijing but a false start in the semis saw her disqualified.

The Tennessee-born hurdler started her 2016 season on fire, delivering a near-perfect run at her first IAAF Diamond League event in Eugene, Oregon, in a time of 12.24 seconds – the second fastest time in history.

Despite that incredible performance she only placed sixth at the US Olympic trials so didn’t make it to Rio, but Harrison’s luck was about to change.

Game changer

Arriving at London Stadium for the first time in July 2016 and no doubt with those Olympic trials in mind, Harrison took to the track in determined mood.

Starting strongly, she found herself nearly a hurdle ahead of the rest of the field at the 60m point and crossed the line in an unofficial time of 12.58 after dipping so low underneath the trackside beam.

This was corrected a few moments later to 12.20 and a sense of disappointment turned to disbelief as the London Stadium erupted.

Harrison had broken one of the sport’s longest-standing records and became the new world record holder, surpassing Bulgarian Yordanka Donkova’s 12.21 record, set in 1988.

After the stunning win, she commented: “To hear people call me a world record holder, it sounds remarkable. I wanted to come out here and show the world that I still have it even though I won't be going to the Olympics. I had to give it all I had.

“Initially I saw 12.5 and I was just happy to come out here and win. I was so happy when it came up and I was feeling really blessed. It shows that even if you don't go out there and make the team, you have to keep going and be strong. I just ran my best and look what happened.”

A star is born

For Harrison there is a before London Stadium and an after, with that dazzling world record spurring her on to further international success.

In 2017 she returned to London for the World Championships, finishing fourth in the 100m hurdles and then in 2018 took her first global crown with the 60m hurdles title at the World Indoor Championships in Birmingham.

The 26-year-old has continued to dominate at the Muller Anniversary Games ever since, taking gold with a time of 12.39 in July 2017 and then making it a hat-trick of titles with a 12.36 the following year.

The mercurial Harrison returned to British soil in 2019 en route to the World Championships, clocking 12.66 to finish second behind Jamaica's Danielle Williams in a loaded field. 

She rose to the occasion when it came to Doha, claiming a maiden major outdoor medal with silver behind compatriot Nia Ali.