Friends, family and community supporters were out in full force on Thursday to celebrate Olympic champion Dalilah Muhammad in her hometown of Rochdale Village days after she broke the 16-year record in the 400-meter hurdles in Iowa.
Muhammad, 29, broke the nearly two-decade record with a time of 52.20 seconds at the USA Outdoor Track and Field Championship on July 28, and was later honored with a cake featuring the athlete in her classic blue Nike outfits, a painting of her Gold medal from the Rio Olympics draped around her neck and a proclamation from City Councilwoman Adrienne Adams (D-Jamaica).
“As her Council Member, it was with great honor to present a citation to Dalilah Muhammad, our Olympic Gold Medalist and new 400m World Record holder!” posted Adams on Facebook. “Your Rochdale Village family loves you, southeast Queens loves you, [and] I love you!”
Muhammad was proud to be back in her hometown and receive such a warm reception.
“I felt honored by all the love and support I’ve gotten in my hometown,” said Muhammad. “Everyone is just really happy for me and the just want nothing for me but the best. They made it more than what a World Record could be.”
Breaking the record was a long time coming for Muhammad.
“Ah man, I’m happy in a sense,” said Muhammad. “Honestly, I’m also a little bit relieved, because I’ve been working for it all year. When you know it’s kind of possible, it gets scary to go out there and try to do it. I’m forever thankful and happy.”
Being able to inspire the next generation of hurdlers was also on her mind.
“The thought that younger girls are going to see this and it’s going to mean something to them and I’ve had athletes that I’ve looked up to as a younger athlete, I want to be that for them,” said Muhammad. “That’s why I do it. That has been my full motivation this year.”
As a younger athlete, the women that Muhammad emulated were track and field stars Allyson Felix, Sanya Richards-Ross and Lashinda Demus.
“Lashinda Demus was the previous American record holder and I remember just always watching her races,” said Muhammad.
Watching women like Demus, Richards-Ross and Felix were the reason she started pursuing track and field hurdling at age seven, but it wasn’t until she won the 2007 World Championships in Athletics in the Czech Republic while still a student at Benjamin N. Cardoza High School in Bayside that she started to consider pursuing the sport professionally.
“A top recruit saw me at Cardoza and that definitely set the path for me,” said Muhammad. “I had a great high school experience and a great high school career. It gave me the taste of wanting to be a champion and wanting to do it on the professional level.”
Dalilah will be competing in the World Championships later this year.