MOSCOW — In perhaps the most dominant performance to date at the 2013 IAAF World Championships, LaShawn Merritt crushed the field in the men’s 400 meters to lead a four-medal night for a surging Team USA Tuesday at Luzhniki Stadium. Nick Symmonds, Jenn Suhr and Tony McQuay all contributed silver medals to bring Team USA’s medal total to 10 (4 gold, 5 silver, 1 bronze).
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Running in lane 6, Merritt (Norfolk, Va.) went out briskly with Olympic champion Kirani James of Grenada just inside him in lane 5 and American McQuay (Gainesville, Fla.) in lane 4. James followed Merritt’s fast start, with McQuay in tow. James looked to close the gap on Merritt slightly at the 200m mark, but faded on the turn as the strength of Merritt took over. The 2008 Olympic gold medalist and 2009 world champion charged down the homestretch, winning in 43.74 seconds - a personal best and .01 faster than his previous best of 43.75 from his gold-medal run in Beijing. McQuay was second in a personal-best 44.40, and Luguelin Santos of the Dominican Republic was third in was 44.52. James faded to seventh in 44.99. It marked a strong comeback for Team USA, going 1-2 in Moscow just one year after having no finalists at the Olympic Games.
Symmonds (Springfield, Ore.) gave the U.S. men their best-ever finish in the men’s 800m, running an aggressive and gutsy race to take the silver and give the U.S. their first 800 medal since 1997. Compatriot Duane Solomon (Los Angeles, Calif.) led the pack through the first lap at 50.28, with Symmonds on his shoulder - an atypical position for the historically late-charging Oregonian. As Solomon faded in the homestretch, Symmonds surged and was in the lead coming home. He was overtaken in the final meters by Mohammed Aman of Ethiopia, with Aman finishing in 1:43.31 to Symmonds’ season-best time of 1:43.55. Ayanleh Souleiman of Djibouti was third in 1:43.75, with Solomon sixth in 1:44.42.
Women’s vault battle
A loud and unabashedly partisan crowd made the women’s pole vault the featured event of the night, pitting world record holder Elena Isinbayeva of Russia against the Olympic gold medalist, Jenn Suhr, and Olympic silver medalist, Yarisley Silva of Cuba.
Suhr (Churchill, N.Y.) cleared her opening height of 4.55m/14-11 on her first try, and then scaled 4.75m/15-7 on the first attempt to take sole possession of first place. When Isinbayeva cleared 4.82m/15-9.75 on her second attempt, Suhr had to do the same to retake the lead while Silva cleared on her last attempt. At 4.89m/16-0.5, Isinbaeva cleared her first attempt and Suhr and Silva failed to clear, claiming silver and bronze, respectively.
In the women's heptathlon, Sharon Day (Manhattan, Kan.) clipped more than two seconds off her personal best in the 800m with a 2:08.94 that pushed her up to sixth overall with 6407 points, her best finish in three trips to the World Championships. Erica Bougard (Byhalia, Miss.) ran 2:13.72 and ended 24th with 5829, and Bettie Wade (Grand Rapids, Mich.) was 27th with 5768 points after running the 800m in 2:20.87. Ganna Melnichenko of the Ukraine captured gold with 6584 points while Brianne Theisen Eaton of Canada claimed silver with a score of 6530
Americans roll into finals
All eyes were on the women’s 1500m semifinals, which saw teenager Mary Cain (Bronxville, N.Y.) become the youngest finalist ever in the event, placing fourth in the first semi in 4:05.21 to automatically advance to Thursday’s final. Reigning world champion Jenny Simpson (Boulder, Colo.), was third at 4:05.79 in semifinal two to also advance. Sarah Brown (Knoxville, Tenn.), finished 10th in that heat at 4:12.16 and did not advance.
Reigning world champion Lashinda Demus (Los Angeles, Calif.) and U.S. champion Dalilah Muhammad (Bayside, N.Y.) both finished second in their semifinals of the 400m hurdles to advance automatically to the final on Thursday. Muhammad clocked 54.08 in the first semifinal, while Demus finished at 54.22 in the second semi. Christine Spence was eighth in the first section at 58.35 and did not advance.
In the men's 400m hurdle semifinals, Olympic silver medalist Michael Tinsley (Round Rock, Texas) won his semifinal in 48.31 to automatically advance to Thursday’s final. Kerron Clement (Gainesville, Fla.), the 2007 and 2009 world champion, moved on to the final after finishing third in the third heat, claiming one of the time qualifier spots with his 48.21. Bershawn Jackson (Raleigh, N.C.) fell at hurdle two in the first semifinal; just after clearing the barrier he appeared to injure himself. Jackson fought an injury after tweaking his right hamstring in practice earlier this week.
Team USA still dominates the team scoring with 127 points, 57 ahead of second place Russia.
For more information on Team USA at the IAAF World Championships, visit www.USATF.org. Live results and startlists are available at www.IAAF.org.
Jennifer Suhr, pole vault final
"They got their money's worth. It was one of the best pole vault competitions ever put on, 82 took third, 75 took fourth. That's just great performances all around. And not to mention the crowd, the cheering and how into it they were. I have to look at it as a success. I'm happy with the silver. I look at the whole year - Olympic gold, world record indoors, silver at worlds and I'm quite happy with that.
Nick Symmonds, 800m final
"I'm disappointed for Duane, first off. My hat goes off to him, and I don't know if I could have been a silver medalist in that race if it were not for him...With 100 to go, I flipped that switch like I did in Edmonton, like I did in London, and at 750 I was pretty sure I was going to be the next world champion, but you know Aman is tough, he finds a way to get to that line, and he did that tonight, and that is why he is your world champion. I really raced for gold tonight. I wasn't content to sit in the back and hang on for dear life for bronze or silver. I raced for gold, and there is no shame in finishing second."
Duane Solomon, 800m final
"I felt like I went out too quickly, and I think it was my competitors’ plan to kind of take me out quick and then hopefully take away my energy for the kick home, and that is exactly what happened. You know going out 22, 23, whatever it was, I don't think anybody could really come home hard off of that. It is really tough. I just tried to hold on as long as I could, and I knew that after I ran that, it was trouble. I'm kind of glad that it went the way it did for Nick, and I'm very proud of him. He ran very aggressive..Either way, if I didn't win a medal, it was one for the U.S., so we can look at it in a positive way like that."
LaShawn Merritt, 400m final
“I’ve always been around, I’ve always worked hard, even last season I had an undefeated year up until the Olympic Games. Just unfortunately I got hurt, I was ready to go last year. So I went and broke my body down to train hard and have a great season this year. I said in the semifinal that this wasn’t a two-man race. Eight men were going to line up who were hungry to represent their country and their sponsor, and I was starving. Not only was I starving for a great performance, I was also starving like I didn’t eat a lot today, so I was really starving. I wanted to go out and put a great race together, I was ready mentally and physically to put a 43 together, and that’s what I did and that’s what I took. Life is full of ups and downs. I’m the type of guy who would say, things happen. You always have to move forward. I never stopped training, I never stopped being confident, I always kept God first, and I always let my hard work be my confidence. I had a brother who was older than me who passed before it was his time to go, so I said, hey, life is full of ups and downs and you have to continue to move forward. Just being here and being able to train and be confident. If I step out and the lights feel like home, it was just time to get work done.”
Tony McQuay, 400m final
"I'm very excited. This is a big stage, this is my first individual medal. Especially at a World championships. It is very exciting. I came out and executed my race. I stayed humble. I stayed hungry. I listened to my coach before my race, and I executed just like he told me to, and it worked out great for me. We're definitely back, baby. We definetly have to remain hugnry and humble and keep coming out here and keeping the title up for the 400m USA men. We're definitely getting out and finishing up the mission in the 4x400m, and letting everybody know USA is still number 1."
Sharon Day, women's heptathlon
"It's definitely a roller coaster ride. There are lots of ups, lots of downs, and you hope there are more ups than downs, but sometimes it doesn't work out that way. I kind of knew that I kind of flushed my score down the toilet with my long jump. It was really unfortunate, but I had a great javelin and I PR'd by three seconds in the 800, so I can't complain there. It just makes me hungrier for two years from now."
Bettie Wade, women's heptathlon
"There were a lot of downs. I guess my javelin was the highlight of my meet, which isn't really saying much. It was just an off meet, and it is unfortunate that it happened at Worlds, but that is life you know. I just look forward to the future. And I had fun, I definitely made sure to have fun, so I'll hold on to that."
Erica Bougard, women's heptathlon
"It was a wonderful experience, but the heptathlon has to be the hardest thing to do when you are down and when you are losing. It has to be the hardest thing in the world to go from event to event and know you can't catch up. I'm still young, I've got time to get better. Hopefully in the next two years I'll just try to improve and I'll be at the next world championships."
Christine Spence, 400m hurdle semifinal
"I was very proud to run for the U.S., and I still am. I just know I'm so much better. But my teammates got to make it, so I'll be there cheering for them. I just have to go back and get ready for 2016."
Dalilah Muhammad, 400m hurdle semifinal
"I'm really excited. That was the main goal to make it to the finals. Now I have to focus on getting ready to try to medal. It is definitely a joy. We've been competing together all year, so to get to the final showdown is really something."
Lashinda Demus, 400m hurdle semifinal
"I feel good. I wish I didn't hit the hurdles the way I did, it really could have cost me the final. But it is over and done with, and I feel comfortable now. I have a race plan moving forward. It is even better to have a training partner there with me in the final, but anytime I have a companion from my country, it is really good. We should have fun in there."
Bershawn Jackson, 400m hurdle semifinal
"I'm in great condition, great form. In practice session, my hamstring cramped up on me, and it hurts. It's unfortunate, but I'm a fighter and I'm going to come back. This isn't the end of me, I'll be back. Today I tried to pick it up a notch I knew I had to run 48 to make it to the final, but it just grabbed on me and wouldn't let me go. It's one of those unfortunate things. It really hurt not making the Olympic team last year, but there is always next year."
Kerron Clement, 400mH semifinal
"It is really good to be through to the finals, that has always been the plan. The finals are all about letting go and going for the gold. I expect to have an amazing race. I expect to have fun, and of course it is always a goal to get gold."
Michael Tinsley, 400mH semifinal
"Thursday night is going to be exciting. Everybody better tune in. It's going to be a hell of a race."
Mary Cain, 1500m semifinal
"I felt pretty good. That is my second fastest time ever, 4:05, by about a second, which is pretty crazy as you can imagine for me. My last race was my second fastest, and that didn't really go great, I had a lot more in me. Geez, they made that hard out there. I'm excited to see what the other girls do, but gosh I'm excited to be automatic. It was pretty close out there and it came down to a dip. You know when I was younger, like I'm still in high school now, but when I was running in high school competitions, a few times I got beaten by a dip. So I try to master that skill and I guess it worked out, because out of the three of us, I think I was the number one person out there with that dip. So, fourth, I'll take it any day at the world championships semifinal. Hopefully I'll do the same thing in the final. That was a pretty hard effort for me, but I remember talking to Nick Symmonds - he is so nice - and he was like, 'after that Olympic semifinal he was like, there is no way I'm running any faster and he went out there and did it two seconds faster, so I look to him as a role model. So even though I'm exhausted, hopefully I still have more in the tank. It is definitely a confidence boost."
Sarah Brown, 1500m semifinal
"You know, that was interesting with a lot of jockeying, repositioning, a lot of running in lane 2, lane 3. I just couldn't have the pop. I'm just so grateful to be here and have this opportunity. I mean that was an awful race for me, but it wasn't like I wasn't trying. I was trying my hardest and it just wasn't there today."
Jenny Simpson, 1500m semifinal
"I was worried, but honestly it is not as nerve-wracking as the final. In the prelim, not to take it lightly, but you just have to be top five, and you kind of know who is going to be strong in the end, so if you have to be behind somebody, be behind them. I feel really good. I think there is the same pressure, that I want to show all of you guys all of the work I did this year, and hopefully that equates to better than I've ever done."