(Reuters) – Olympic champion Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone ramped up preparations for a title defence at this year’s Paris Games by running a world-leading time of 52.70 seconds on Friday in her first 400 metres hurdles race in over a year.

McLaughlin-Levrone, the world record holder in the 400 hurdles, last competed in the event in August 2022.

The 24-year-old displayed no signs of rust at the Edwin Moses Classic in Atlanta, as she effortlessly surged past her competitors to better Jamaican Rushell Clayton’s previous season-leading mark of 53.72 by over a second.

“It’s a progression, you know. Shaking the rust off after two years – I’ll take a 52.7,” McLaughlin-Levrone said after the race.

“There are things to work on and I haven’t had much hurdle practice, so there’s things to improve.”

McLaughlin-Levrone, who missed last year’s World Championships due to a knee injury, has been competing entirely in the United States in the build-up to this month’s U.S. Olympic Team Trials.

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: May 18, 2024; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone (USA) wins the women's 200m in 22.07 during the USATF Los Angeles Grand Prix at Drake Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports/File photo

“I love racing and I love Europe, but I think in a year like this and coming back from injury last year I just wanted to be safe,” McLaughlin-Levrone said.

“Travel can take a lot out of the body, and hopefully I can get some more races, but I’m just playing it safe until I get to trials.”

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