'Batman' Jackson splashes to victory in 400-meter hurdles

Posted: Wednesday, August 10, 2005

HELSINKI, Finland — Batman didn't let a little rain slow him down.

Bershawn Jackson, who earned his nickname as a kid because he had ears like a bat's and was so fast he seemed to fly, splashed to victory in the 400-meter hurdles Tuesday night, leading a 1-2 U.S. finish at the world track and field championships.

The race came after a severe thunderstorm swept in from the Baltic Sea, bringing torrential rains that suspended competition for nearly two hours.

When the competition resumed, the 22-year-old Jackson ran a personal-best 47.31 seconds despite a steady rain. It was the second-fastest time in the world this year. Teammate James Carter, fourth in the last two Olympics, was second in 47.43, also a personal best.

''I was so focused, I let nothing, neither rain nor the lightning stop me,'' Jackson said.

Americans nearly had a sweep, but Dai Tamesue of Japan edged 19-year-old Kerron Clement for third. Clement, who has the world's fastest time at 47.24, ran poorly in lane 1, had his usual problem with a stutter-step over the final hurdle, and finished in 48.18, eight-hundredths of a second behind Tamesue.

''I'm young,'' Clement said, ''and I'll be back.''

Felix Sanchez, the two-time defending champion and Olympic gold medalist, pulled up with a right hamstring injury after the first hurdle. Sanchez was born and raised in the United States but runs for the Dominican Republic, where his parents were born.

That left Jackson in charge.

''Last year I had a lot of technical problems and I missed the Olympic team,'' he said. ''This year I just wanted to show the world my talent. I'm very mature as far as running the hurdles, and I just want to be like Edwin Moses one day.''

Then Jackson turned around, and there was Moses, the two-time Olympic gold medalist who won 122 consecutive races from 1977 to 1987. The two, who had never met, posed for pictures, Moses towering over the 5-foot, 8-inch Jackson, who is unusually small for a 400 hurdler.

Normally, Jackson would have the name of his late uncle Richard Jackson on his trademark headband, but international federation rules wouldn't allow it. His family remained on his mind.

''I was very hungry today,'' Jackson said. ''I couldn't wait any longer to take this gold medal. This win means a lot for me. I want dedicate it to my uncle and my 3-month-old daughter.''

American Bryan Clay, the Olympic decathlon silver medalist in the Athens, held a 14-point lead over gold medalist and world record holder Roman Sebrle of the Czech Republic halfway through the 10-event competition.

The decathletes were in the midst of the high jump when the heavy rain moved in. They huddled under small shelters, then ran off the field when the sky turned black and lightning flashed around. Some stubborn fans sat in the unprotected seats throughout the violent storm, though, and after a 1-hour, 50-minute delay, the meet resumed.

With a soft rain falling, Zulia Calatayud of Cuba was a surprising winner in the women's 800 in a slow 1:58.82. Hasna Benhassi of Morocco was second, followed by Tatyana Andrianova of Russia, the favorite. Two-time world champion Maria Mutola was a close fourth.

Saif Saaeed Shaheen of Qatar, the former Stephen Cherono of Kenya, won the 3,000-meter steeplechase with surprising ease. Shaheen, paid by oil-rich Qatar to run for that country since 2003, won in 8:13.31, extending his unbeaten streak to 22 races. Kenyans Ezekiel Kemboi (8:14.95) and Brimin Kipruto (8:15.30) followed.

The 100-meter hurdlers were most affected by the storm. One preliminary heat was completed, but those in the next four had to wait it out in a small room while meet officials decided what to do.

''We had a meeting and we were deciding who wants to run and who doesn't,'' defending champion Perdita Felicien of Canada said. ''We were split half and half. I didn't want to run, but you do what the boss says if you want to go to the next round.''

Felicien and Olympic champion Joanna Hayes of the United States made it through after the delay. American Michelle Perry, who has the fastest three times in the world this year, won the heat before the deluge.

The storm led to the postponement of the second round of the 200. That round and the semifinals will be held on Wednesday with the final on Thursday night. That gives 100-meter champion Justin Gatlin some extra time to recover after winning the 100 meters on Sunday.

All four U.S. sprinters — Gatlin, Wallace Spearmon, Tyson Gay and defending champion John Capel — made it through the first round earlier Tuesday. Gatlin was admittedly a bit off form two days after his 100 triumph.

''I feel a little sore, tired, like any person that runs fast,'' he said.

Olympic silver medalist Toby Stevenson pulled out of pole vault qualifying with a slight hamstring injury.

The event was completed before the big storm, but was disrupted when Finnish vaulter Matti Mononen knocked out the measuring device on one of the two pits being used. The delay resulted in the lowering of the automatic qualifying height, and by the time competition resumed, blustery winds hampered the remaining vaults.

''After that hour delay or however long it was, the wind seemed to pick up a little bit and it was very tough conditions to jump in,'' said American Brad Walker, one of those who barely made it in by clearing 17 feet, 10 3/4 inches.

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