If plans for the Los Angeles Grand Prix announced, it promised competitions featuring some of the biggest names in athletics. That star power took a hit Tuesday when Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone, citing her coach Bobby Kersee’s decision, said she would no longer attend the May 27 UCLA meeting.
Kersee, the legendary sprint coach and co-organizer of the Grand Prix, did not respond to messages asking for comment.
“Regrettably, due to my coach’s decision, I will not be attending the LA Grand Prix,” McLaughlin-Levrone said in a statement issued through her agent. “I trust his judgment and will cheer on my fellow athletes. I’m happy to see my fans! Thank you for your support.”
The decision to withdraw McLaughlin-Levrone was made on Tuesday afternoon and was considered a surprise; The image of McLaughlin-Levrone dominates the official website for the competition and she was expected to be competing only days before.
McLaughlin-Levrone’s gold medals and world record times in the 400-meter hurdles have made her one of the biggest stars in track and field – feats she’s achieved training in Los Angeles under Kersee’s tutelage in recent years.
Organizers of the meeting declined to confirm whether Athing Mu, who, like McLaughlin-Levrone, is one of the sport’s biggest draws and who joined Kersee’s training squad last fall, will attend. The Orange County Register reported that Mu, the 800-meter champion at the Tokyo Olympics and the 2022 World Championships in Eugene, Oregon, would not.
The Los Angeles Grand Prix, co-organized by USA Track and Field, is one of the governing body’s boldest attempts to bring attention to athletics in the United States, as part of a strategy to boost the sport’s popularity domestically ahead of the 2028 Olympics going on Angeles. To that end, organizers secured a premier venue at UCLA, where no major, professional gathering had taken place since the 1990s.
“Athletics needs a serious boost in terms of engaging coaches, athletes and those behind the sport and launching a product that fans love,” Kersee told The Times in March. “We are too fixated on world records. We need good competitions, good performances, good encounters. And we got the athletes to do it.”
The Los Angeles Grand Prix begins on May 26 with a distance carnival and is followed the next day with a meetup, partially broadcast on NBC from Drake Stadium. Announced on the competition website are world record and gold medalist in pole vault Mondo Duplantis, world record and gold medalist in shot put Ryan Crouser, and former USC star and world champion 400 meter Michael Norman, among others expected will be at the World Championships in Hungary this summer.