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US 400m Hurdle Squad Sweeps!

BEIJING – Team USA’s first gold medal in these Beijing Olympic Games
came from a most unexpected source, but it opened the floodgates as
Team USA more than doubled its medal count Monday night at the “Bird’s
Nest” National Stadium. A sweep in the men’s 400m hurdles, gold in the
women’s discus and silver in the women’s pole vault propelled the team
medal count from four to nine in a single night.

U.S. scores fifth 400H sweep; Taylor wins second gold

Angelo
Taylor, Kerron Clement and Bershawn Jackson had talked about an Olympic
sweep in the 400m hurdles as long ago at the Olympic Trials, and on
Monday that plan played out to perfection. Taylor (Decatur, Ga.) won
his second Olympic gold in the event, leading from start to finish in a
personal-best time of 47.25. The 2000 gold medalist in Sydney, where he
ran out of lane 1, Taylor duplicates a feat achieved only by Edwin
Moses in this event, winning gold medals eight years apart.

The
2007 World Outdoor champion, Clement (Los Angeles) came off the final
curve just slightly behind Taylor, and he held on to take the silver in
47.98. The 2005 World Outdoor Champion, Bershawn Jackson (Raleigh,
N.C.) overcame a sluggish middle portion of the race to move up to
third in the homestretch, finishing in 48.06. It marked the fifth time
that the United States has swept the hurdles at the Olympics, also
doing it in 1904, 1920, 1956 and 1960.

Historic gold for Brown Trafton

It
was Stephanie Brown Trafton (Galt, Calif.) who got the medal avalanche
going, turning in the most surprising performance of the meet thus far
by an American. The 2007 NACAC champion won the United States’ first
gold medal in the women’s discus since Lillian Copeland in 1932, and
the first medal of any kind since Leslie Jean Deniz won silver in the
boycott-afflicted 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. It was a
significant personal victory for the 6-foot-4, 28-year-old Brown, who
has never finished higher than second at a U.S. national championship.

Brown
Trafton stood in first place after the first round of throwing, popping
off a strong throw of 64.74m/212-5, less than five feet off her
personal best. She threw into the net on her next two attempts but
remained in the lead as the field was cut from 12 to eight after three
throws. Team USA captain Aretha Thurmond had a best mark of
59.80m/196-2 and did not make that cut, finishing 10th.

As the
fourth and fifth rounds concluded, Brown Trafton was still in the lead
with her first-round mark. With just three throwers remaining in the
competition, Brown was still in first, and assured of a medal. By the
time she entered the ring for the last time, the gold was hers. Cuban
silver medalist Yarelys Barrios was second with 63.64m/208-9, and Olena
Antonova of Ukraine was third with a 62.59m/205-4 effort.

Stuczynski soars to silver in WPV

Jenn
Stuczynski (Churchville, N.Y.) lived up to being the #2 women’s pole
vaulter of all time, taking the silver medal behind the top women’s
vaulter of all time, Yelena Isinbayeva of Russia. The American record
holder cleared 4.55m/14-11 on her first try, then passed 4.65 before
clearing 4.70/15-5 on her first go as well. She cleared 4.75m/15-7 on
her second attempt, then 4.80m/15-9 on her first to solidify the
silver. Four misses at 4.90m/16-0.75 – she protested a miss on her
second attempt because officials had given her only two minutes between
jumps rather than the required three, and she was granted another try –
ended her evening. Isinbayeva went on to clear a world-record height of
5.05m/16-6.75, breaking her own WR by 1 cm. Olympic Trials runner-up
April Steiner Bennett (Springdale, Ark.) cleared 4.55m/14-11 to place
eighth.

Anthony Famiglietti (Knoxville, Tenn.) made a run for it
in the men’s 3,000m steeplechase final. Knowing that running from the
front has been his most successful tactic, Fam was fourth with four
laps remaining and moved to the lead with 3.5 laps to go. The field was
quick to respond, and he was overtaken one lap later, fading to 13th
in 8:31.21. Brimin Kipruto of Kenya won in 8:10.34, with Mahiedine
Mekhissi-Benabbad of France second in 8:10.49 and Richard Mateelong of
Kenya third in 8:11.01.

Team USA’s first six medalists at these
Games – Christian Cantwell, Shalane Flanagan, Hyleas Fountain, Walter
Dix, Brown Trafton and Stuczynski – all were first-time medalists on
the World Outdoor or Olympic stage.

Semifinal success

Americans
were outstanding in the women’s 100m hurdles semifinal. Olympic Trials
champion Lolo Jones (Baton Rouge, La.) won heat 1 in a 2008
world-leading time of 12.43 (+0.2mps), while Damu Cherry (Winter
Garden, Fla.) won heat 2 in 12.62 with Dawn Harper (Los Angeles) second
in 12.66 as the Americans posted the three fastest times of the round.

After
barely advancing to the semifinal round, 2004 Olympic Trials champion
Sheena Tosta (Chula Vista, Calif.) came back with a vengeance in
Monday’s semis of the women’s 400m hurdles, winning the first heat in
54.07, the fastest time of the day. 2008 Trials champion Tiffany
Ross-Williams was third in heat 2 in 54.99 to make the final, with
Queen Harrison (Mechanicsville, Va.) in seventh and failing to move on
in 55.88.

Men’s 200 quarterfinals

All three U.S. men
in the 200m quarterfinals advanced by virtue of placing second in their
heats. Reigning gold medalist Shawn Crawford (Los Angeles) was second
in heat 1 to 100m world record holder Usain Bolt in an easy 20.42; 100m
bronze medalist Walter Dix (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) was second in heat 2
in 20.27; and 2007 World Outdoor bronze medalist Wallace Spearmon
(Fayetteville, Ark.) was second in heat 4 in 20.39.

For more
information on Team USA at the Olympic Games, including athlete quotes,
event schedule, TV schedule and complete results, visit www.usatf.org

***

Team USA medal table, 2008 Olympic Games

Gold (2)

Stephanie Brown Trafton (Galt, Calif.), women’s discus, 64.74m/212-5

Angelo Taylor (Decatur, Ga.), men’s 400m hurdles, 47.25

Silver (3)

Christian Cantwell (Columbia, Mo.), men’s shot put, 21.09m/69-2.5

Jenn Stuczynski (Churchville, N.Y.), women’s pole vault, 4.80m/15-9

Kerron Clement (Los Angeles), men’s 400m hurdles, 47.98

Bronze (4)

Shalane Flanagan (Pittsboro, N.C.), women’s 10,000m, 30:22.22AR

Hyleas Fountain (Kettering, Ohio), women’s heptathlon, 6619 points

Walter Dix (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.), men’s 100m, 9.91

Bershawn Jackson (Raleigh, N.C.), men’s 400m hurdles, 48.06

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