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U.S. track team sees lots of gold

Posted: Sunday, August 14, 2005

HELSINKI, Finland — The United States is bringing home a record haul of gold from the world track and field championships. They won't win one in the women's 1,600-meter relay, though.

The U.S. team easily won its preliminary heat Saturday night but was disqualified for ''multiple lane violations.'' The ruling did not say specifically where the infraction occurred. An appeal was denied.

It was the second relay foul-up for the United States. The men dropped the baton on the first exchange of the 400-meter relay preliminary Friday night.

Before the disqualification, it was another great night for the Americans.

Olympic champion Dwight Phillips repeated as long jump champion and the women's 400-meter relay team raced to victory to give the Americans 13 gold medals.

The total matches the record set by the 1993 U.S. team in Stuttgart, Germany, and the Americans are heavy favorites to add one more Sunday in the men's 1,600 relay.

The United States got two medals when Lashinda Demus and Sandra Glover finished second and third behind Russian world record holder Yuliya Pechonkina in the 400 hurdles.

The Americans have 24 medals overall, two shy of the 26 they took home from Tokyo in 1991.

Phillips won the long jump in a hurry, soaring 28 feet, 2 3/4 inches on his first attempt. He fouled on his remaining five jumps, but that didn't matter. No one could come close to his first one.

Phillips' mark matched his personal best. No one has jumped farther in the past five years.

The near-capacity crowd at the 40,000-seat Olympic Stadium finally got a chance to cheer wildly and wave their blue and white flags when Finland won its first medal, a bronze in the long jump by Tommi Evila. It was not the first time that a victory by Phillips was almost unnoticed.

''In some type of way, I always feel like I'm getting overshadowed,'' Phillips said. ''But I did win tonight, and I do feel like I'm capable of breaking this world record. Somewhere, this year, that's my goal is to break the world record.''

He needs to go a whole lot farther to achieve that.

Mike Powell set the world mark of 29-4 1/2 at what is considered the greatest long jump event in the sport's history, in 1991 at the world championships in Tokyo. Powell had Carl Lewis to push him that day. No one is close to challenging Phillips, unless the champ has an off day.

''It's very hard to jump when you're not pressured,'' Phillips said.

Unlike the men, the U.S. women passed the baton smoothly to win the 400 relay in 41.78 seconds. Allyson Felix, the 200 gold medalist, had been announced as part of the team, but she didn't run.

Instead, U.S. relays coach Brooks Johnson went with the same lineup as the preliminaries — Angela Daigle, Muna Lee, Lisa Barber and 100-meter champion Lauryn Williams.

Felix is not a great runner out of the blocks, and that led to the decision not to run.

''Allyson had the option of running, and she wasn't very comfortable as the first leg,'' Williams said. ''No one is angry. No one is upset about not being able to run the relay.''

Daigle was told late in the morning that she would run instead of Felix.

''It's an amazing feeling,'' Daigle said, ''just that they would trust in me to be able to get the job done.''

Williams, the 100 champion in Helsinki, took the occasion to put her hair up in her favorite style, ''Mickey Mouse'' ears that she often wore in college at Miami. She has a Mickey Mouse tattoo on her thigh from those days.

''I just wanted to be me,'' she said. ''I feel this brings out my personality.''

Williams acknowledged some nervousness after dropping the exchange from Marion Jones in the finals of last year's Athens Olympics.

''I think there was a little added pressure after last year's mishap,'' she said. ''I just wanted to get it around.''

Williams, at 21, is part of a takeover of the sport by the young worldwide.

None of those youngsters is more impressive than 19-year-old Ethiopian Tirunesh Dibaba, who completed an unprecedented distance-running sweep by defending her title in the 5,000 meters, one week after winning the 10,000.

Dibaba outsprinted Meseret Defar down the final 80 meters to win in a meet record 14 minutes, 38.59 seconds.

Ethiopians cemented their status as the dominant power in the women's long-distance races, finishing 1-2-3-4 in the race after sweeping the medals in the 10,000. Defar was second in 14:39.54, and Tirunesh's sister Ejegayehu Dibaba was third in 14:42.47. Meselech Melkamu, the fourth Ethiopian in the race, finished one second later.

With the United States out, France won the men's 400-meter relay, giving 110-meter champion Ladji Doucoure a second gold.



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