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Richards-Ross gets long-awaited gold; Gatlin, Trotter take bronze

LONDON — In the showcase event of the Olympic Games, USA and Jamaica had it out in the fastest 100 meters in Olympic history, not long after Sanya Richards-Ross became only the second American to win the Olympic women’s 400m Sunday night at the Olympic Stadium.

Richards-Ross Rules
Showing the poise she has waited four years to use to her advantage, Richards-Ross (Austin, Texas), the world’s top 400 meter runner, claimed the 400m Olympic gold medal she had long coveted. With it, the 2008 bronze medalist and 2009 world champion joined Hall of Famer Valerie Brisco-Hooks (1984) as the only American to win the event at the Olympic Games..

Russian Antonina Krivoshapka got out to an early lead and on the final curve was holding on to first. Known for her kick in the final stages of the race, DeeDee Trotter (Orlando, Fla.) put the hammer down earlier Sunday night and took the lead at the top of the homestretch, threatening for the gold.

Maintaining her composure and technique, Richards-Ross moved to the lead with 40m left and held off the hard-closing 2008 Olympic gold medalist, Christine Ohuruogu of Great Britain. Richards-Ross staved off her challengers to claim the gold in 49.55, with Ohuruogu second in a season-best 49.70 and Trotter third in 49.72. It was the second-fastest time of Trotter’s career, her fastest time since 2007 and it delivered her first individual championship medal. Trotter outleaned defending world champion Amantle Montsho of Botswana, who was fourth in 49.75, for the bronze. American Francena McCorory (Hampton, Va.) was seventh in 50.33.

Men’s 100 for the ages
The men’s 100m had all the trappings of a five-way heavyweight title bout, with some of the greatest 100m men in history vying for the title of World’s Fastest Human at these Games. Lanes 3-7 featured an all-star lineup of alternating Jamaicans and Americans: former world record holder Asafa Powell in 3; history’s second-fastest man, Tyson Gay in 4; 2012’s undefeated Yohan Blake in 5; 2004 gold medalist Justin Gatlin in 6; and world record holder and defending champion Usain Bolt in 7. Upstart American Ryan Bailey was in lane 8. The marquee event drew a full house of spectators including Prince William, Kate Middleton, Prince Harry, London Mayor Boris Johnson and basketball players Kobe Bryant and James Harden.

When the gun sounded, Olympic fans saw something they hadn’t witnessed before: Bolt being forced to run - and run hard - if he wanted to win. Gatlin (Orlando, Fla.) got out very well, leaving Bolt, running to his right, slightly behind. With Blake and Gay also out strongly, the question of who would eventually win wasn’t answered until at least 60 meters in, when the long-striding, teeth-clenching Bolt pulled away to win in 9.63 seconds, an Olympic record and the second-fastest time in history. Blake rallied to clip Gatlin for second, with Blake running a personal-best 9.75 and Gatlin third in 9.79, the fastest ever by an American at the Games and a personal best. Gay (Clermont, Fla.) was fourth in a season-best time of 9.80, and Bailey (Salem, Ore.) tied his personal best in fifth (9.88). Churandy Martina of Netherlands Antilles was sixth in 9.94 and Richard Thompson of Trinidad seventh in 9.98. Only an apparent hamstring injury suffered by Asafa Powell kept the race from having eight men under 10 seconds. Powell limped home in 11.99.

First through seventh all were the best marks for place in Olympic history, and Gatlin, Gay and Bailey had the best third-, fourth, and fifth-place times in any competition.  

Earlier in the night, Gatlin’s 9.82 in the first semifinal was the fastest time ever in a semifinal and the second-fastest 100m performance ever at the Games. Bailey ran 9.96 to qualify second out of heat 2, behind Bolt’s 9.87, and Gay was second in the third semi in 9.90, behind Blake’s 9.85.

In other finals Sunday night, Evan Jager (Portland, Ore.) was sixth and Donn Cabral (Glastonbury, Ct.) eighth in the men’s 3,000m steeplechase. The two Americans were in first and second with five laps to go and 5-6 with 400 meters left, before the favorites took over. The flamboyant world champion, Ezekiel Kemboi of Kenya, took the gold in 8:18.56, Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad of France was second in 8:19.08, and Abel Mutai of Kenya was third 8:19.73. Jager finished in 8:23.87 with Cabral two places back in 8:25.91.

Olympic Trials champion Kibwe Johnson (Sacramento, Calif.) was ninth in the hammer throw with a best of 74.95m/245-10, thrown in the second round. He missed the cut-down to the final 8 throwers by just one place. Kristian Pars of Hungary won the competition with a throw of 80.59m/264-5, Primo Kozmus of Slovenia was second (79.36m/260-4), and Koji Murofushi of Japan third (78.71m/258-3).

Qualifying roundup
For the first time since 1988 three American men will compete in the high jump fiinal. Reigning World Champion Jesse Williams (Eugene, Ore.) and 21-year-old Erik Kynard (Manhattan, Kan.) tied for third in the qualifying round as they cleared 2.29m/7-6. Jamie Nieto (Chula Vista, Calif.) was close behind, clearing 2.26m/7-5.

Leo Manzano (Austin, Texas) and Matthew Centrowitz (Eugene, Ore.) will represent the U.S. in Tuesday’s final of the men’s 1,500m. Manzano easily qualified in the Sunday’s first semifinal heat, placing fourth in 3:42.94. World Outdoor bronze medalist Centrowitz looked very under control, placing fifth in semifinal 2 for an automatic position with a season-best 3:34.90. Andrew Wheating (Eugene, Ore.) placed ninth in the first semi in 3:44.88 and did not advance.

All three Americans advanced to the semifinals of the women’s 400m hurdles. T’erea Brown (Miami, Fla.) was second in heat 1 in a personal-best time of 54.72. World champion Lashinda Demus (Palmdale, Calif.) ran 54.60 to win heat 3, and Georganne Moline (Tucson, Ariz.) easily won heat 4 in a personal-best time of 54.31.

In the men’s 400m semifinals, Tony McQuay (Gainesville, Fla.) was fourth in heat 2 in 45.31 and Bryshon Nellum (Los Angeles, Calif.) was third in heat 3 at 45.02 and did not advance. Except for 1980 when the U.S. boycotted the Games, this is the first time Team USA will not have a man in the 400m final in Olympic history.

Team USA Medal Count - 7 total
Gold (1)
Sanya Richards-Ross (Austin, Texas), w400, 49.55

Silver (2)
Carmelita Jeter (Gardena, Calif.), W100, 10.78
Galen Rupp (Portland, Ore.), M10,000m, 27:30.90

Bronze (4)
Justin Gatlin (Orlando, Fla.) M100, 9.79
DeeDee Trotter (Orlando, Fla.), W400, 49.72
Will Claye (San Diego, Calif.), MLJ, 8.12m/26-7.75
Reese Hoffa (Athens, Ga.), MSP, 21.23m/69-8

Athlete Quotes:
Sanya Richards-Ross, 400m: “It is very, very challenging to come to the Olympic stage and give your best performance and balance emotionally and physically. To come out here and be successful is my ultimate dream come true. It is a huge weight off my shoulders, I kept telling myself, ‘you are the champ, you are the champ,’ but to go out there and to actually accomplish it was really tough. I got out really well the first 50, then I kind of backed off a little too much down the backstretch. I felt Krivoshopka come up and Montsho kind of get away from me on the curve. I kept telling myself, ‘be patient, be patient,’ I got to the 100 meters and there was about four of us across the track, which I’m not used to. I just kept saying, ‘you can do this, you can do this’ and I dug really deep and I crossed the finish line first. I’m very happy.”

DeeDee Trotter, 400m: “Getting out there and trying to really get after it, it came down to that home stretch and I was in a good position to take home the gold, but I just came up short. I got snipped at the line for the silver, but to get a bronze medal and an individual medal has been the highlight of my career, I couldn’t be prouder, all the glory to God for giving me the opportunity.”
“I’m glad we brought the gold medal back home. Sanya Richards- Ross worked very hard. If anyone had to get it, I’m glad it was her. She has been working her butt off, and it is a lifetime dream for her. I’m very happy to see her have such a fantastic race and complete that dream.”

Justin Gatlin, 100m: “It just feels good to be back. A dream. I have been sitting in my room, in the Village. I am here, eight years later. My journey, coming back – it has been a lot.”

“I just wanted to get on that podium and to be there for my country. All of the people in the stands with flags. They are there for us so I wanted to be there for them.”

Tyson Gay, 100m: “It was tough, but I don’t have any excuses. I gave my all. My hip felt good. USA Track & Field staff, everybody came together to make me feel the best I can be. That was my season best for the year. I just came up short. I feel good, my body is healthy. I just feel like I let a lot of people down.

Don Cabral, 3000m Steeplechase:  “I think it was a fun experience, a great step. Leading the race is different than winning it. I knew it was going to be intense. A lot of pushing. “

Evan Jager, 3000m Steeplechase: “I was surprised. I thought there was a possibility of it going really slow or really fast, and mentally I was preparing for really fast because it would have been much harder to change plans midrace if I was expecting it to go sow. I was pleasantly surprised that it went out that slow. I just put it all in the kick, and I was pretty confident in my kicking ability and my hurdling to keep me a little closer to the leaders in a slow race. I was pretty happy about that. It was also kind of cool me and Donn being able to run 1-2, representing the USA for a good portion of the race. That was a pretty cool experience. But when it got going with two laps to go, and with a lap to go, I just tried to stay relaxed and calm. They took off with 400 to go and I just couldn’t respond. I’m a little disappointed that I couldn’t respond that easily, but it was a good experience.

Erik Kynard, high jump: “I was alright today, I had one miss. It was fine. I was pretty relaxed. The hard part is over, I just have to go compete.”

Jamie Nieto, high jump: “It has been a great year, I thank God. I’m 35 years old. It’s truly a blessing to make another Olympic finals and to be in the top 12 again.”

Jesse Williams, high jump: “It was a long qualifying round. The atmosphere is unbelievable. I have a few adjustments to make for the final.”

Matthew Centrowitz, 1500m: “It is what I wanted to come in here with. I didn’t want to focus on how I was feeling going into it, and I wanted to be confident in myself. I knew it was a good field, but that’s what I did last year and it worked out well. I’m fortunate enough to be in the second heat.”

Andrew Wheating, 1500m: “Obviously it goes one of two ways: it goes slow or fast. I was kind of hoping it would be fast, but it was slow. There are a lot of mistakes I made. It was frustrating because I should have caught them, but I didn’t have the confidence and the mentality to really push myself through the race. I’m emotional, I kind of put a lot into each race and it was just hard in this one to believe that I would make it from one round to the next. That’s an error I need to work on a lot...lesson learned.”

T’erea Brown, 400m Hurdles: “It was easy. The race was very nice, very comfortable. I ran exactly as I planned, I PR'd. I didn't feel like I needed to push it. I think tomorrow we'll see some 52s. It wasn't the perfect race. I need to make some minor tweaks. I stuttered at eight, so I need to fix that.”

Lashinda Demus, 400m Hurdles: “I came in with a plan to execute and follow regular steps to the 8th hurdle which I did.  It’s easy to run on this track.  Now I’m going to work on the next part.  I felt good, I’m excited to run tomorrow.”

Georganne Moline, 400m Hurdles: “I’m excited for tomorrow. It was just the first round, so I wasn’t trying to PR or anything. It was pretty smooth, and there were a few hurdles that I need to focus more on so I have a more clean race tomorrow. I actually felt more relaxed coming out here; I thought I would feel more nervous. I’ve never been to a meet with a crowd like this. It definitely relaxed me and I was excited.”

Bryshon Nellum, 400m: “Overall it has been a wonderful experience. This was always one of my goals. A couple of years ago I didn’t know if I was going to be here due to one of my tragedies, but it is a blessing to be here and compete.”

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