BEIJING - A thrilling win for Dawn Harper, a bronze for Sanya Richards and a heartbreak for Lolo Jones made for a tumultuous Tuesday night at the "Bird's Nest" National Stadium.
The 2003 USA junior champion, Harper (Los Angeles) was considered by many to have a possible shot at a medal in the 100m hurdles final, but no one expected gold. It was teammate Lolo Jones who seemed destined for the top of the podium, owning the fastest time in the world and winning her races by large margins. Although a bit slow out of the blocks, Jones (Baton Rouge, La.) rallied quickly and was clear of the field by the eighth hurdle. The normally clean-hurdling Jones hit the ninth hurdle, made it over the 10th hurdle and ended in seventh place (12.72). Behind her, the field moved up, with Harper winning in a personal-best time of 12.54 seconds, with Sally McLellan of Australia second in 12.64 and Priscilla Lopes-Schliep of Canada third in 12.64. Team USA's Damu Cherry (Winter Garden, Fla.) was fourth in 12.65.
In the 400, the heavily favored Richards ran her traditional, strong first 200 meters and hit the homestretch in the lead. But she very noticeably slowed with about 75 meters remaining. Her right hamstring had grabbed, causing her to lose form and forcing her to will herself to the finish line as she watched her gold-medal hopes slip. World champion Christine Ohuruogu of Great Britain moved up from the middle of the field to first place, winning in 49.62. Shericka Williams of Jamaica was second in 49.69, with Richards third in 49.93. Despite her disappointment, Richards' performance had historic significance: It was Team USA's fourth Olympic medal ever in the event and the first since Valerie Brisco-Hooks and Chandra Cheeseborough went 1-2 in 1984.
For the firs time, all three Americans will compete in Friday night's final of the women's 5,000m after strong showings Tuesday night. Competing in her third Olympics in her third different distance event, Jen Rhines (Mammoth Lakes) qualified automatically by running 15:15.12 to place sixth in heat 1. American record holder Shalane Flanagan (Pittsboro, N.C.) was sixth in heat 2 in 14:59.69 to automatically advance, and Olympic Trials champion Kara Goucher (Portland, Ore.) was seventh in 15:00.98, qualifying on time.
Runner-up runs were the theme for American women's 200m runners in the quarterfinal round. Allyson Felix (Los Angeles, Calif.) was second in heat 1 in 22.74; Marshevet Hooker (Pfugerville, Texas) was second in heat 3 in 22.76, and Muna Lee (College Station, Texas) was second in heat 4 in 22.83 as all three moved on to the semifinals.
For more information on Team USA at the Olympic Games, including athlete quotes, event schedule, TV schedule and complete results, visit www.usatf.org
Women's 100m hurdles final
Lolo Jones (Baton Rouge, La.): "You hit a hurdle about twice a year where it affects your race. It's just a shame that it happened on the biggest race of my life. About the middle part of the race, the hurdles were just coming up very fast, and I just told myself what I always tell myself, 'keep things tight.' But it's kind of like a car. When you race in a car and you're going max velocity and you hit a curve, you either maintain control or you crash and burn and today I crashed and burned."
Dawn Harper (Los Angeles): "In the beginning, I did feel a little more jitters than I did in the first round. I had to kind of shake them off. I knew I needed to react to the gun, just focus on me and be quick and attack each hurdle."
On winning being a surprise: "I felt I was always capable if I focused on myself. But for others, yes."
On Jones hitting the 9th hurdle: "I felt something happen. I didn't know how serious it was. You have to focus on you because if I get caught up on her then who knows what happens to me."
On Jackie Joyner-Kersee: "She wasn't able to come to the Olympics this year, but she sent me an email telling me that you can do it and stay focused. It's about you. Run your race on that day and that time. Focus on you."
Damu Cherry (Winter Garden, Fla.): "It's really hard to get fourth. I thought I had it; I thought I had it, I really did, so congrats to them. I was right there. It's hard."
On Jones' mishap: "You've got to concentrate on your lane, and I didn't know what happened. The thing you have to do is you've got to keep running and never quit. You never know where you are in the race. I kind of thought I was up there but it was by a thousandth of a second. It's hard to deal with. It's hard but I'm healthy and I thank God for that."
Women's 400m final
Sanya Richards (Austin, Texas): "My right hamstring grabbed on me, and I just couldn't move it anymore. I tried to hold them off, and I just couldn't. I'm so disappointed because I've never had anything like that happen. I was totally out of control on the straightaway. I was all over the lane. Christine Ohuruogu was just really strong coming home."
"I felt really good. I thought I ran the first 200 really under control. I felt really strong. I started working the curve, and I came off in good position. I got to about 320 and I knew I had at least 70 meters to go and my right hamstring kind of grabbed. I tried to pull it through, but it just got really low on me and from there on my legs just got really heavy."
"I knew that gold was mine. I knew I was going to run 48 seconds. I felt so good. I was already getting elated coming off the turn because I knew how my races had been going. My hamstring just really let me down. I just feel like I've worked so hard in vain."
Team USA medal table, 2008 Olympic Games
Stephanie Brown Trafton (Galt, Calif.), women's discus, 64.74m/212-5
Dawn Harper (Los Angeles), women's 100m hurdles, 12.54
Jenn Stuczynski (Churchville, N.Y.), women's pole vault, 4.80m/15-9
Shalane Flanagan (Pittsboro, N.C.), women's 10,000m, 30:22.22AR
Hyleas Fountain (Kettering, Ohio), women's heptathlon, 6619 points
Sanya Richards (Austin, Texas), women's 400m, 49.93