Femke Bol is eager to face Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone at the Olympics. GETTY IMAGES

Femke Bol, fresh from two golds and a bronze at the European Championships, admits she is looking forward to what she says will be a "nice battle" with American arch-rival Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone at the Paris Olympics. Bol was one of the stars of the championships in Rome, dominating her speciality event, the 400m hurdles, and going on to anchor the women's 4x400m relay team to victory while also picking up third place in the mixed relay.

The Dutchwoman won the 400m hurdles bronze in the Covid-delayed Tokyo Games in 2021 when McLaughlin-Levrone claimed gold in a then-world record of 51.46 seconds. The American bettered that first in June 2022 at the US trials in Eugene by 0.05sec before taking it down to 50.68sec when winning gold at the world championships on the same track later that year.

McLaughlin-Levrone missed last year's worlds through injury and Bol won.

"I hope it's going to be a nice battle!" Bol said. "I will try to be at my best form I can be and then we will see where it will bring us."

Many track fans believe the duo's clash will be one of the main attractions of the Paris athletics schedule.

"I hope so! That would be great," Bol said.

Bol, like McLaughlin-Levrone, is a talented performer over 400m flat. At the European championships in Munich in 2022, Bol won gold in that event as well as the hurdles and in March set a new world record in winning world indoor gold over 400m in Glasgow. But the 24-year-old will not be running the 400m flat in Paris: "Only the hurdles and the relay.” Performing in front of a packed-out Stade de France, however, will be a massive step up from Tokyo, where Covid regulations meant the stands were empty.

"I'm completely looking forward to the event," she said. "I went to Tokyo, but it was in Covid, it was completely different. I have a lot of family and friends who will be coming to Paris so I'm really looking forward to being there."

"Some nice nerves"

While Bol was on national duty in Rome, McLaughlin-Levrone showcased her versatility in New York by setting a world-leading time of 48.75sec over the 400m, falling just 0.05sec short of breaking Sanya Richards-Ross' American women's record. Before that she set a then world-leading 52.70sec in her first 400m hurdles race for nearly two years in Atlanta. Bol lowered that to 52.49sec when winning in Rome. McLaughlin-Levrone may not have run her signature event since August 2022, but there were no signs of rust.

It sets the 400m hurdles in Paris up very nicely.

"It's great she's there and it will always be exciting and always bring some nice nerves," said Bol of her American opponent. "But at the same time, I'm really focused on myself. I'm always just trying to be a better athlete and then I just hope it will bring something nice to be battling with her."

Bol said Rome had been a useful stepping stone towards the Olympics.

"It's very important. I mean, a European championships is a European championships —it's always big. It's one to add to the collection and that's always something amazing. And the time was good, a championship record, so I'm really happy," she said.

"It's always something extra when you race on a big tournament, and it's only my second 400 hurdles race of the season."

Bol let slip one of her race tactics.

"For me, I visualise I'm running towards someone. It always helps me a lot, but when you have a loud atmosphere like here in Rome, it also helps a lot."

Track fans will wait with bated breath to see whether Bol, come Paris, will still need to visualise a person at the end of the home straight or will the shadow of her nemesis, McLaughlin-Levrone, prove enough incentive.