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USA hurdler and sprinter Sydney McLaughlin made her mark in last summer’s Olympic Games, winning gold at Tokyo in both the 400m hurdles and as a part of the 4×400m relay team.

And while the 22-year-old runner is glued to her TV for the current Winter Olympics in Beijing, China, she says she doesn’t have a favorite sport or event per se. Instead, she’s all-in on her country across the board.

“I will be rooting for all of Team USA during the Winter Olympics,” she said in an interview last week. “I’m so excited to see them kill it out there!”

McLaughlin has also gained some additional visibility as of late, by talking about mental health and wellness as a part of Knot Wellness, a year-long initiative spearheaded by nuptials and style magazine The Knot. She is also the cover star of The Knot Magazine’s Spring Mental Health Issue, as the magazine celebrates its twenty-fifth year in publication.

In bringing McLaughlin on board, The Knot says it hopes to bolster its newest efforts beyond wedding planning, by providing support and guidance around the most important wellness topics facing Millennials and Gen Z as they transition to stages later in life.

“For 25 years, we’ve had the honor of being the leading wedding planning authority for millions of engaged couples,” said Kiara Kempski, vice president of consumer marketing for The Knot Worldwide. “While this period in a couple’s life is joyous, it can also be a time of stress.”

Kempski also pointed out that going into the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic, “we’re in the midst of a wedding boom, with this year anticipated to have the most weddings in recent history – an estimated 2.6 million in the U.S. alone, (as) couples are still navigating the pandemic.”

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Lauren Kay, The Knot’s executive editor went a bit further, saying, “Sydney McLaughlin is a powerful example of a to-be-wed who places the importance of her own mental and relationship health at the top of her list while balancing the demands of her training and career.”

“We’re honored to share Sydney’s story, advice, and best practices, plus wellness content throughout the issue focused on supporting couples through every step of their journey,” Kay added. 

While also on the cover of the Spring 2022 special issue, McLaughlin discusses her upcoming nuptials to fiancée and former NFL player Andre Levrone Jr. In the upcoming edition, the former University of Kentucky track and field standout reveals how the couple maintains their relationship amidst the friendly competition that comes naturally to two top-flight athletes.

Last week, during a short Q&A we did prior to the start of the Winter Olympics, I asked McLaughlin about her mental prep for last summer’s games, as well as her relationship and competitiveness with Levrone. She hinted that there might be some upcoming athletic competitions between them.

Andy Frye: Spectators don’t perhaps understand the mental strength and rigor it takes to get to the Olympics. How do you describe that?

Sydney McLaughlin: Training your whole life for moments, minutes, even seconds, is something not many people will understand. For me, it has taught me to persevere in ways I never thought I could in order to build the character needed to make it to that next level.

VIDEO: McLaughlin on COVID, training for Tokyo Olympics

AF: Your fiancée Andre Levrone is also an athlete. Do you “pep talk” each other?

McLaughlin: I am beyond grateful that Andre can relate to the life and mentality of a professional athlete. He has added a tremendous amount of insight and encouragement to my training. Of course, we are competitive by nature, so a race is definitely in our future at some point! 

AF: A lot of pros are talking about mental health. Yet, it seems women get the extra burden of having body image thrown at them. What are your perspectives on that?

McLaughlin: Performing at the highest level also brings along with it the highest amount of attention and opinions. For me, I personally try to distance and limit how much of the outside voices I let in. Staying grounded through my faith, family, and friends helps me cut through a lot of the extra stress.

AF: What athletes have influenced you most as a competitor?

McLaughlin: One athlete who has inspired me is Jackie Joyner Kersee. Not only was she an unreal athlete, but her constant support and encouragement during my own career taught me a lot about the sport and myself. I’m very grateful for who she is.

Read Andy Frye’s interviews with Lindsey Vonn and Allyson Felix.

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Source: Forbes

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