U.S. women look to continue world championships sprint hurdle success in Helsinki

05-20-2005

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Tom Surber
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USA Track & Field
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In anticipation of the 10th IAAF World Outdoor Track & Field Championships later this summer, USATF will take a look back at many of the great moments provided by U.S. athletes at the previous nine World Outdoor Championships, and look forward to 2005, with a series of feature stories. The series will continue until the beginning of the 2005 World Outdoor Championships, August 5-14 in Helsinki, Finland.

INDIANAPOLIS - Led by all-time great Gail Devers, Team USA's women's 100m hurdlers have enjoyed tremendous success at the World Outdoor Championships of the 1990s and 21st century. The stars of 2005 - including Olympic gold medalist Joanna Hayes - will look to continue that tradition at the10th World Outdoor Track & Field Championships this summer in Helsinki.

All hail Gail!

Five of the eight 100m hurdles world championship medals won by Team USA athletes are due to the brilliance of two-time Olympic 100m gold medalist, Gail Devers, who won her first of two world championship silver medals in Tokyo in 1991.

Six months prior to the championships, Devers was bed-ridden and facing the possibility of having both feet amputated after being stricken with Graves Disease, a condition that caused her to miss competing in 1989 and 1990. Her recovery began early in 1991, and she began training in May of that year. At the 1991 World Championships, Devers, who was mired in third place in the final in Tokyo, put on a furious charge in the final stages of the race to surpass Russia's Natalya Grigoryeva to capture one of the unlikeliest silver medals in track and field history.

Devers earned the top spot on the podium at the 1993 Worlds in Stuttgart, setting an American record of 12.46 seconds and winning the gold medal over Russian runner-up Marina Azyabina, who finished in 12.60. Devers was joined on the medal stand that year by her U.S. teammate Lynda Tolbert, who grabbed the bronze medal in 12.67 seconds.

Two years later Devers entered the 1995 World Championships in Gothenburg towards the end of a difficult season due to a sore hamstring. After a poor start in the final, Devers righted herself and gained ground over the hurdles to win her second world championships 100m hurdles gold medal in 12.68 seconds.

At the 1999 World Championships in Seville, Spain, Devers won her third hurdles gold medal, though a mistake near the finish almost cost her the race. Devers had a slight lead when she hit the final hurdle hard and nearly came crashing down. Amazingly, she righted herself and crossed the finish line first with a new American record time of 12.37 seconds, the fastest time in the world in seven years.

U.S. goes 1-2 in Edmonton

All eyes were on Devers once again at the 2001 World Outdoor Championships in Edmonton, Canada, as she entered the 100m hurdles competition as the heavy favorite. She easily won her opening round and semifinal heats prior to the final that featured two other Americans, Anjanette Kirkland and Jenny Adams.

Adams led the field following a great start in the final, with Devers and Kirkland, who placed third in her semifinal, on her heels. As Adams began to fade, Kirkland, out of lane 1, began to gather the momentum that carried her to a shocking victory in 12.42 seconds. Earlier in March, Kirkland pulled off a similar feat in winning the World Indoor Championships 60m hurdles gold medal out of lane 8. Devers held on to win the second World Outdoor Championships silver medal of her career (12.54), with Adams finishing impressively in fifth place (12.63).

The most recent U.S. world championships sprint hurdles medal was captured by Miesha McKelvy-Jones, who won the bronze medal (12.67) at the 2003 Worlds in Paris. She was joined in the final by Jenny Adams, who finished sixth in 12.77.

Looking ahead to Helsinki

The future appears bright for the U.S. women's sprint hurdles corps during the 2005 season, with four of the world's top ten competitors vying to make the U.S. team for Helsinki.

Jesse Owens Award winner Joanna Hayes leads the list following her remarkable 2004 season where she won the Olympic gold medal in a world-leading personal best of 12.37 seconds, the #6 performance of all-time. Hayes went on to win at Moscow and Berlin before winning the World Athletics Final to end up with the #1 ranking in the world for 2004. Hayes sat out the 2005 U.S. indoor season due to injury, but she looks to come back for the outdoor campaign.

Melissa Morrison-Howard enjoyed another strong season last year highlighted by an Olympic bronze medal performance in Athens (12.56), the second bronze of her career, and a #5 world ranking. Also look for Jenny Adams to challenge Hayes and Morrison-Howard after wins last year at Palo Alto and Portland, where she posted a season's best time of 12.66 seconds. Adams finished the 2004 season with a runner-up finish at the World Athletics Final and ended the campaign ranked #6 in the world.

After a superlative indoor season, 2005 USA indoor champion and Olympic Trials fourth-place finisher Danielle Carruthers appears to be on top of her game and poised to make her first major international team ... and perhaps challenge for a medal. Others to watch include ageless wonder Gail Devers, who won last year's Olympic Trials and ended the season ranked #10 in the world, and the always dangerous Miesha McKelvy-Jones.

Whoever qualifies for the U.S. team in Helsinki in the 100m hurdles will have achieved a major accomplishment, simply by making the roster. That experience will serve them well in their attempt to add to an impressive World Outdoor Championships legacy.