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Merrit Leads Sweep of 400; US T&F Medal Tally at 20

BEIJING – A sweep of the men’s 400 meters led a six-medal night as
Team USA brought its Olympic track and field medal count to 20 during
Thursday evening competition at the “Bird’s Nest” National Stadium. The
medal haul helped to offset disappointment in the men’s and women’s
relay rounds.

Merritt the man at 400 meters

Still
considered an underdog entering the 400 meters, Olympic Trials champion
LaShawn Merritt (Suffolk, Va.) had only one goal, and that was gold. In
the end, he led the second consecutive Olympic sweep for Team USA in
the one-lap race, including Jeremy Wariner (Waco, Texas) and David
Neville (Los Angeles).

Running in lane 9, Neville
set a blistering pace as Wariner in lane 7 also got out well. In lane
4, Merritt started more conservatively. But as the saying goes, it’s
not where you start, it’s where you finish. All three Americans came
off the turn together, virtually in a dead heat. But in the final
straight, it was all Merritt. The Olympic Trials champion must now be
considered the favorite rather than the contender after running away
from the field to win in 44.75 seconds, a personal best and the fastest
time in the world this year. Wariner was nearly a full second back, in
44.74, and Neville dove for third in 44.80.

Payne, Oliver go 2-3

Another
multi-medal event came in the men’s 110-meter hurdles. With world
record holder Dayron Robles of Cuba heavily favored, many predicted the
race for second and third would be most compelling. Americans came away
with both spots.

The 2007 World Outdoor bronze
medalist, David Payne (Hampton, Va.) started strongly and held on as
Robles sped through the 10-hurdle race. Robles broke clear of the field
to win in 12.93, with Payne second in 13.17. After a somewhat
conservative start, David Oliver (Kissimmee, Fla.) moved strongly over
the final three hurdles, nearly nipping Payne but finishing third in
13.18.

Felix wins second silver

The
women’s 200 was another matchup between U.S. and Jamaican sprinters,
with the heavyweights being defending gold medalist Veronica
Campbell-Brown of Jamaica and silver medalist Allyson Felix of the
United States.

Campbell-Brown got out very well,
leaving Felix to play catch-up after a slow start and around the curve.
There was no catching the Jamaican, however, as she powered home to win
in a personal-best 21.74, with Felix second in 21.93. It was the
second-fastest time of Felix’s career. Kerron Stewart of Jamaica was
third in 22.00, with a hard-closing Muna Lee (College Station, Texas)
just out of the medals, fourth in a personal-best 22.01. Marshevet
Hooker (Austin, Texas) was fifth in a personal-best 22.34.

Clay, Hardee still 1-3 in decathlon

After
two more events Thursday night, Bryan Clay (Glendora, Calif.) and Trey
Hardee (Austin, Texas) remain in first and third in the decathlon
standings.

The 2005 world champion, Clay had a
somewhat disappointing performance in the high jump, conducted in a
driving rain, by clearing 1.99m/6-6.25 for 794 points and 11th place. He finished by running 48.92 in the 400 for 865, ending the day with 4,521.

Hardee
jumped 2.02m/6-7.5 in the high jump (850 points -sixth place) and ran
47.75 in the 400 (921 points – fourth place) to remain in third with
4,428 points. Andrei Krauchanka of Belarus was second with 4,433.
Competition resumes Friday morning.

Rowbury makes final

In
the women’s 1,500m semifinal, Olympic Trials champion Shannon Rowbury
(San Francisco, Calif.) advanced to Sunday’s final by placing fourth in
heat 3, the fastest heat of the semifinals, in 4:03.90. USA indoor
champion Christen Wurth-Thomas was eighth in the first heat in 4:09.70,
and Erin Donohue was eighth in heat 2 – by far the most tactical of the
three – in 4:16.05. Donohue was sprinting to the finish when she
knocked elbows with Nancy Langat of Kenya with 50 meters to go, after
which she faded.

Relay woes

The
men’s and women’s 4x100m relays both ended the same, and badly. In the
men’s race, Rodney Martin led off, followed by Travis Padgett and
Darvis Patton, who held a comfortable lead. As he moved to hand off to
Gay, the baton appeared barely to graze Gay’s hand, and fell to the
track.

Hopes were higher for the women’s relay,
but the result was nearly identical. After legs by Angela Williams,
Mechelle Carter and Torri Edwards, Team USA enjoyed a large lead. But
again on the final handoff, the baton fell helplessly to the track.

Nick
Symmonds missed out on making the final of the men’s 800, placing fifth
in his semifinal heat in 1:46.96. Symmonds made a big move from eighth
to second with approximately 200 meters to go, but he was unable to
hold his speed in the final straight.

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 (4)

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

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

Dawn Harper (Los Angeles), women’s 100m hurdles, 12.54

LaShawn Merritt (Suffolk, Va.), men’s 400m, 43.75


Silver (8)

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

Sheena Johnson Tosta (Chula Vista, Calif.), women’s 400m hurdles, 53.70.

Shawn Crawford (Los Angeles), men’s 200m, 19.96

Jeremy Wariner (Waco, Texas), men’s 400m, 44.74

David Payne (Hampton, Va.), men’s 110m hurdles, 13.17

Allyson Felix (Los Angeles), women’s 200, 21.93


Bronze (8)

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

Sanya Richards (Austin, Texas), women’s 400m, 49.93

Walter Dix (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.), men’s 200m, 19.98

David Neville (Los Angeles), men’s 400m, 44.80

David Oliver (Kissimmee, Fla.), men’s 110m hurdles, 13.18

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