DAEGU, South Korea - It was a night made for milestones for Team USA at the 13th IAAF World Outdoor Track and Field Championships Thursday night.
During a 32-minute span, LaShinda Demus set an American Record in the women’s 400m hurdles, Jesse Williams ended a 20-year drought by Team USA in the high jump by winning gold, and Jenny Simpson won the first American gold medal in the women’s 1,500m since 1983.
Williams, the world leader at 2.37m/7-9.5, became the first American to medal in the high jump since Charles Austin and teammate Hollis Conway collected gold and bronze medals at the 1991 World Championships in Tokyo.
The momentum for Team USA then shifted from the infield to the oval.
Less than 10 minutes after Team USA teammate Simpson had scored a surprise victory in the women’s 1,500m, Demus earned a gold medal in the women’s 400m. It was redemption for Demus after settling for silver medals at the 2005 and 2009 World Championships.
If that wasn’t enough, Team USA had four athletes advance through the semifinal round of qualifying, including three-time defending World champion Allyson Felix and recently crowned 100m champ Carmelita Jeter in the women’s 200m.
Maybe Thursday morning’s session was an indication of things to come for Team USA after advancing a whopping 15 athletes into the next round of competition.
Team USA improved its medal count to 12, including seven gold, four silver and one bronze. The women have accumulated four gold medals, marking the third straight World Championship that Team USA has achieved that feat.
Women’s 400m Hurdle Final
Lashinda Demus (Palmdale, Calif.) not only captured a gold medal but set an American record in the process with a 52.47 clocking, bettering Kim Batten's previous American mark of 52.61 set in Goteborg, Sweden in 1995 - the last time Team USA won the world championship in that event. Running out of lane three, Demus looked in control the entire race, accelerating past defending champion Melaine Walker of Jamaica who was timed in 52.73. It was the top performance of the already successful Demus’ career. A former world junior champion and world junior record holder, Demus had previously won World Outdoor silver in 2005 and 2009; she missed 2007 on maternity leave, pregnant with twin boys.
Women’s 1500m Final
In the women's 1500m final, Jenny Simpson (Colorado Springs, Colo.) started in the middle of pack for the first 400m then faded to the back. At the bell Simpson found herself in seventh place and began working her way back closer to the leaders. Simpson started to surge ahead with 200m to go. Coming down the homestretch and running in lane two, she moved into third, then second and ultimately into first, as she distanced herself by two-tenths of a second over runner-up Hannah England of Great Britain in a winning time of 4:05.40. Simpson first appeared shocked, then overjoyed as she realized she won the world championship title, becoming just the second American to win the title since Mary Decker in 1983.
Morgan Uceny (Mammoth Lakes, Calif.) and Kenya’s Hellen Obiri crashed to the track as they came around the top bend for the second last time. Both got up gamely to finish, with Uceny clocking 4:19.71 to place tenth.
Men’s High Jump
World leader Jesse Williams (Eugene, Ore.) sailed through the first five increases without a single miss between 2.20m/7-2.5 and 2.35/7-8.5 allowing him to always hold or share the lead. Williams had to wait for Russia's Aleksey Dmitrik to miss all three attempts at 2.37m to earn the gold medal.
Williams’ victory broke a sequence of Russian championship successes which has brought the Olympic (Andrey Silnov), World (Yaroslav Rybakov), World Indoor (Ivan Ukhov) and European championship (Aleksandr Shustov) title in the past three years.
Men’s 400m Hurdle Final
Team USA had its streak of winning gold medals in three consecutive World Championships come to an end. Two-time World Championship medalist Bershawn Jackson (Raleigh, N.C.), running in lane five, placed sixth in 49.24 seconds, while two-time Olympic gold medalist Angelo Taylor (Decatur, Ga.), operating in lane one, badly struck the final hurdle setting for seventh in 49.31 Great Britain's David Greene came on strong to win the race in 48.26 which was the slowest time in the finals in championship history. Jackson made the quickest start only to lose momentum by clattering the hurdle. He also struck the second and third hurdles.
Women’s 200m Semifinals
All three American women advanced to the finals of the 200m with ease. Carmelita Jeter (Gardena, Calif.) looked smooth in the first heat and cruised to the win with meters to spare. Jeter’s time of 22.47 was the second fastest of the day.
In the second heat Shalonda Solomon (Orlando, Fla.) continued the winning ways, and bettered Jeter’s time by one-hundredth of a second to win in 22.46 and turned in the fastest time of the evening. In the third heat Allyson Felix (Santa Clarita, Calif.) made up ground on Jamaica’s Veronica Campbell-Brown after coming off the curve several meters behind; however, she was unable to close the gap and finished second in 22.67.
Men’s 1500m Semifinals
Matt Centrowitz (Arnold, Md.) led the first 600m of his 1500m semifinal heat, but then faded to the back of the pack. However, if anyone thought he had simply gone out too hard, they were wrong. At 1,000m, Centrowitz began a drive back toward the front of the pack. With 400m to go, he slipped through a small gap and passed on the inside; taking a lead he would not relinquish and winning his heat in a time of 3:46.66.
In the second heat, Leo Manzano (Austin, Texas) started conservatively in the back of the pack and began to move up during the last lap. With 40 meters to go Manzano was suddenly forced to let up his pace due to a left hamstring issue. He faded in the end to cross the finish line in 3:47.98 and miss advancing to the final.
Men’s Javelin Throw Qualification
Mike Hazle (Chula Vista, Calif.) did not start in the men’s javelin due to a right elbow injury suffered in warmups.
Team USA Medals
Lashinda Demus (Palmdale, Calif.), W400H, 52.47AR, 9/1
Jenny Simpson (Colorado Springs, Colo.), W1500, 4:05.40, 9/1
Jesse Williams (Eugene, Ore.), MHJ, 2.35m/7-8.5, 9/1
Carmelita Jeter (Gardena, Calif.), W100, 10.90, 8/29
Jason Richardson (Inglewood, Calif.), M110H, 13.16, 8/29
Trey Hardee (Austin, Texas), Decathlon, 8607, 8/28
Brittney Reese (Gulfport, Miss.), WLJ, 6.82m/22-4.5, 8/28
Lashawn Merritt (Suffolk, Va.), M400, 44.63, 8/30
Allyson Felix (Santa Clarita, Calif.), W400, 49.59PR, 8/29
Ashton Eaton (Eugene, Ore.), Decathlon, 8505, 8/28
Walter Dix (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.), M100, 10.08, 8/28
Jillian Camarena-Williams (Tucson, Ariz.), WSP, 20.02m/65-8.25, 8/29
LaShinda Demus (Palmdale, Calif.), Women’s 400m Hurdles
“I was really focused on steps and technique, and making sure I had something left over the last 100.
"I am happy. I am grateful. I want to get home to see my sons, they are twin boys, four years old. “I still have not had a gold medal so this is great. I just saw my mom; she was so happy. It feels so great to bring it home. Watching the twins is more difficult than running the 400m hurdles. Running is my little break for the day. My father and my grandmother have the twins right now. He told me that he wouldn't be able to sleep, as it's 5 a.m. in Los Angeles, so I know he's seen everything by now.
“This victory means that hard work pays off. I feel like I ran for my mother, the twins, my husband, my father, and for all the people who support me”
Morgan Uceny (Mammoth Lakes, Calif.), Women’s 1500m
“With 500 meters left, people are trying to get fancy. Someone brushed me at the wrong place and at the wrong time and I got cut off. I had no time to react. I think it was the Kenyan (Hellen Onsando Obiri). It's no one's fault. It’s the nature of the beast. When you get in these big races you have to learn to get in a different spot.”
Jenny Simpson (Colorado Springs, Colo.), Women’s 1500m
“It is something that you dream about. It’s not like you just go and win a race. Everything has to come together at the right time. You have to make it through the first round and a prelim. This is the U.S. team - you have to make the U.S. team. Just making this U.S. 1500m team is difficult. I think I ran the same time tonight that I ran in the U.S. championships to get here. Just getting here was such a thrill and I think I was really calm coming into tonight because what more can I ask for - I’m in the final and I’m healthy.
“The last few meters was all about where my head was going into (the 1500m final). Standing on the line, I was thinking about what this could mean for my life and what this could mean for my family. My little sister [Emily] is serving in the army, so I thought, ‘man, if I win gold I get to play that national anthem for her.’ So coming down the last 100 meters I was thinking about my little sister and thinking, ‘let’s get that song playing.’
“Shannon (Rowbury) medaled at the last world championships and Morgan (Uceny) has been on fire all year, so I think this has been such an incredible American buildup to something that I was able to do tonight. I don’t want to lose sight of the way they pioneered back up to the world stage in the 1,500m with me.”
Jesse Williams (Eugene, Ore.), Men’s High Jump
“It felt great! I got the W, and I was in the zone the entire time. I knew that if I could execute my plan, I could win.
“I turned my back and didn't look at anyone else’s jump. Dwight Stones always said that I jumped very high early in the season, and can't get it done at the end of the year, so 'Dwight, this is for you!' It's a friendly joke!
“I really wanted to jump 2.37m and I wanted to jump clean through that height as I thought that was what it would take to win. It was a dream come true for me to win. It's been a long road for me from North Carolina to USC and to Eugene.
“I love working hard, and I'm a fighter. I knew that if I could put it all together, I could win a world championship. I'm really going to enjoy this moment and have some fun tonight.
“I'm a real student of the sport and I'm aware that twenty years ago, Charles Austin won in Tokyo, and I knew I could relive what he lived through today. If I could get through the qualifying rounds, I could be in a position to win it.”
Angelo Taylor (Decatur, Ga.), Men’s 400m Hurdles
“It wasn’t a good race for me. I got out pretty fast and I tried to settle in but I was going so fast. It just wasn’t a clean race on the last three hurdles. I knew going into hurdle seven I had to kick to come home. I started to kick but I put on my 400m flat kick and forgot I had (to jump) hurdles. I came up on the hurdles so fast. But in the midst of all that I was still right there in the race at (hurdle) No. 10. But once I hit No. 10 I was done and it took everything I had out of me.”
Allyson Felix (Santa Clarita, Calif.), Women’s 200m
“I was just trying to qualify easily and set myself up good for tomorrow. I wanted to come out and work on a few things in the rounds and save stuff for tomorrow. I wouldn't be human if I said I felt great. I'm going to try to execute in spite of the legs.”
Carmelita Jeter (Gardena, Calif.), Women’s 200m
“I felt really good. The first round I had to wake myself back up. I felt kind of sleeping debating about whether to run the 200m or not. I really had to turn my mind. In this race (200m semifinal) I really had to flip the switch and run a good heat to get a good lane (for the final).
"This race was exactly what I was supposed to do.
"The 200 is more of a fun race for me since I accomplished what I was supposed to do in the 100. I don't feel like I have that extra pressure on me right now, so I think I'm really enjoying myself which is great. I don't feel like I'm stressed or extra worried. I feel like the gun goes off I'm just going to run. I won the 100. It would be nice to do something real special in the 200 but I'm more relaxed at this point.
“I've run a lot of rounds, so of course I'm not going to tell you my legs are fresh. I'm not going to sit here and act like they are. I'm going back to the village and just prepare myself for tomorrow. Everybody's legs should be tired.”
(On finish in first round)
: “What happened was I really wasn't paying attention as well as I thought I was and I was really close to the line. So I was looking down and saying 'oh, no, no I'm about to touch the line…about to jump over,' so I was stumbling. I wasn't really hurt or anything.”
Shalonda Solomon (Orlando, Fla.), Women’s 200m
“I'm happy I was able to get through the race and finish. Physically everything is going great. I'll just check with my coach to make sure my drive will be ready for tomorrow because the ladies will be flying.”
Matt Centrowitz (Arnold, Md.), Men’s 1500m Semifinals
“Being in the front I really didn’t feel much. The only time it got real physical was with 500m to go and I came on the inside and had to give a little nudge, but other than that it wasn’t crazy for me.
“Whatever happens in finals is going to be a great experience for the future. Winning the semi wasn’t really in my plans, it was more like focusing trying to get top three and qualify.
“Once I found myself in the lead I figured I may as well finish it up and it felt great.”
Leo Manzano (Austin, Texas), Men’s 1500m Semifinals
“First off, I have to congratulate Matt for a phenomenal year. For me, I just wasn’t able to put it together. When I was running down the home stretch, I tried to pick it up and catch the pack, but I felt my hamstring give way and wasn’t able to finish.”
For Complete results visit www.iaaf.org