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ATLANTA 1996 OLYMPICS

Adkins Comes Through for Atlanta

Track and field: Despite unusual pre-race jitters, local star captures 400-meter hurdles in 47.54 seconds.

August 02, 1996|RANDY HARVEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

ATLANTA — An emotional wreck from Georgia Tech, Derrick Adkins overcame rare pre-race nerves in front of a crowd of 82,884 in his adopted hometown and won the gold medal Thursday night in the 400-meter intermediate hurdles.

This city appears to have become the capital of intermediate hurdlers. Adkins, a native of Long Island but a resident of Atlanta since 1988, extended the Americans' winning streak to five in the event in Olympics in which they have attended since 1976.

Edwin Moses, who earned two of those gold medals, also attended college in Atlanta, at Morehouse, and now lives here. So does Kevin Young, who set the world record in the 1992 Games at 46.78 seconds.

Adkins did not come close to that on the Centennial Olympic Stadium track with his winning time of 47.54 seconds. But he achieved a clear victory over Zambia's Samuel Matete, who finished second in 47.78. Calvin Davis, who exposed the weakness of the event since Young's demise as a world-class hurdler by making the U.S. team in only his seventh race five weeks ago, finished third in 47.96.

The normally laconic Adkins admitted he was jittery at the start because of the expectations of the crowd, which has seen other local athletes, such as sprinters Gwen Torrence and Dannette Young, achieve less than anticipated.

"I was happy that I came through because the crowd was really behind me," said Adkins, who also finished ahead of the runner-up Matete in last summer's World Championships and was favored to win.

"I've never felt anything like that. When I came off that last hurdle, and all of those cameras were flashing, it was like all I was seeing were stars."

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