5 Things To Know About 16 Year Old Olympian Sydney McLaughlin

Sydney McLaughlin is the youngest Olympian to not only make the track team but also qualify in decades. The last time this happened was in 1976, when Rhonda Brady, at age 16, qualified for the Montreal Olympics. McLaughlin recently won the 2016 Gatorade Player of the Year award, which honors high school athletes for their athletic achievement, academic excellence and exemplary character. We caught up with McLaughlin just before she left for Rio. Here are 5 things to know before you see McLaughlin hit the track:

1. It All Started With A Chocolate Bar:

When we took it back to the basics, and talked about why Sydney loves track, and why it's her dream, she responded, "it started at a young age, it started because a chocolate bar. My dad said if I ran the race I would get a chocolate bar. I did, I won, and I got the chocolate bar!"

"I like the feeling of having something to look forward to. Something as small as a chocolate bar has now grown to the Olympics. Six year old dream, I'm now sixteen, and I'll reach that goal."

2. Breaking Records:

At her age, there has not been an American that has run as fast as McLaughlin does in the 400-meter-hurdles. She ran a 54.15, which set a world junior record at the Olympic trials. 

3. Mono Halted Her Season:

"In December, track season started out, everything was good. I wake up one morning my neck hurts, it's a big lump. A few days go by, and it's two weeks into the track season, and I have mono, and if you know you can't run, because you can rupture your spleen. I'm out a month and a half, watching my teammates run, and here I am it's Olympic year, and I'm not doing anything. That was not a great start to my season. I knew as time went on things would get better, but then they didn't."

The Olympian continued, "My mom had a heart attack, as they say, every Olympian has two or three major struggles before they make it, and I was like, 'well I'm having struggles, but I don't know if I'm going to make it,' and somehow I did!" 

4. Running Is Her Relief:

McLaughlin has gone through her series of struggles, but she finds refuge in track. The hurdler told If You Can Dream It Do It, "It's been a long year with a lot of ups and a lot of downs, and I think just realizing that those things, those are hard, but everything does get better. I think just trying to stay positive, when I do get in situations like that, I run track. I get off social media, I get off my phone, and I go run." She continued to say, when she runs no one can take that from her, it's just her and the track. 

5. Her Lucky Blanket Has Made It's Way To Rio:

As far as special items in tow, it's rather simple, a lucky blanket that's proved to be a lucky companion.

McLaughlin tells If You Can Dream It Do It,

"I got it last year, and I went to Worlds with it, and I won, and ever since it's been by my side!" 

McLaughlin celebrated her 17th birthday on August 7, but still has the potential to be the youngest Olympian hurdler ever to medal! You can catch her on NBC tonight at 7:30pm.