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French Crowd Gets a Chance to Cheer

August 31, 2003|Randy Harvey | Times Staff Writer

PARIS — The French had their day at the track and field world championships, finally.

After winning no gold medals in the first seven days of the meet in front of near-sellout crowds at Stade de France, the French won two Saturday.

Taking advantage of the absence of Kelli White, who withdrew after testing positive for a stimulant, the French women's 400-meter relay team upset the heavily favored United States team.

France finished first in 41.78 seconds. The U.S., which was leading until an awkward handoff between the third and fourth legs from Inger Miller to Torri Edwards, finished second in 41.83.

Had White competed, she would have run the anchor leg and Edwards would have led off.

Chryste Gaines, who ran an excellent second leg, said the U.S. women didn't know until they arrived at the warmup track that White had withdrawn. But Gaines didn't use White's absence as an excuse.

"We didn't have to change anything," Gaines said. "We had three different ways we were going to run the relay, and this happened to be one of them."

France's first gold medal came minutes earlier, from Eunice Barber in the long jump. She had finished second last week in the heptathlon.

She is coached part of the year in St. Louis by Bob Kersee. Immediately after the competition, she found Jackie Joyner-Kersee, a two-time world champion in the event and Kersee's wife, among the crowd of 54,134 and hugged her.

Barber's winning jump of 22 feet 11 1/4 inches came on her sixth and final effort.

"I forgot about techniques and just gave everything up," Barber said. "I gave everything."

India won its first medal ever in the world championships when Anju Bobby George finished third in the event at 21-1 3/4. She is trained by Mike Powell, the men's world-record holder, in Los Angeles.

"One bronze medal for a billion people," said her husband, Tommy, who helps coach her.

Allen Johnson of the U.S. won his fourth world championship in the 110-meter hurdles, finishing in 13.12. The U.S. had four finalists in the event.

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