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The Strain Proves Too Great for Devers

Her quest for gold in the 100 hurdles is thwarted for the fourth consecutive Games, this time by a calf injury.

August 23, 2004|Helene Elliott | Times Staff Writer

ATHENS — Gail Devers was frustrated yet again in her quest for a gold medal in the 100-meter hurdles.

Devers, 37, fell to the track in pain before the first hurdle in her first heat Sunday, brought down by a severely strained left calf muscle. She sustained the injury seven days ago while training near her Atlanta home but tried to fight through it to end a jinx that saw her fall in the hurdles final in 1992, finish fourth in the event in 1996 and pull up lame in the semifinal in 2000.

She had competed in the 100-meter dash Saturday, theorizing that a flat sprint wouldn't be painful, but was eliminated in a semifinal. She aggravated the injury Sunday and immediately knew gold was beyond her reach.

"I was just hoping to get through the first round, to tell you the truth," Devers said Sunday in a statement released by USA Track and Field. "Coming out on the practice track before I came out here, it was feeling a little bit tighter than I wanted to feel. I tried to block it out of my mind.

"I came out the first time over a hurdle, it popped and then pulled downward. I knew that the cameras were watching and I tried to limp back. It was pulling and I just said, 'I'm going to run.' I just said in my heart, 'I'm tougher than this and I don't care if it's pulling, I'm going to go.' The gun went off, I went out, and when I put my foot in flexion to go over the hurdle, it pulled again."

Devers, who won gold in the 100-meter dash at Barcelona in 1992 and at Atlanta in 1996, said her career wasn't over.

"I'm nowhere near being a failure because what God has blessed me with is endurance and mental strength, and regardless of obstacles I'm faced with, I'm going to conquer them," she said. "I believe I conquered this tonight, just getting out there when I already knew it was gone."

Joanna Hayes of Los Angeles and UCLA advanced to today's semifinals, as did Melissa Morrison.

In other key events:

Sheena Johnson of UCLA advanced to the women's 400-meter hurdles final by finishing third in her semifinal, at 54.32. Brenda Taylor of Chula Vista (55.02) also moved on, but Lashinda Demus was fifth in her semifinal and was eliminated.

"I've run a lot of races this season," Johnson said. "I've just got to hang on for three more days. I should be all right. It's really hot here, a little bit different than what I'm used to in L.A."

Taylor said her time was slower than she'd anticipated but was simply glad to qualify for Wednesday's final. "Everyone in the final has the capability of breaking the world record," she said.

Matt Hemingway of Denver won a silver medal in the men's high jump and Jamie Nieto of Sacramento finished fourth, both on tiebreakers. Sweden's Stefan Holm won the gold with a jump of 2.36 meters (7 feet 8 3/4 inches); Hemingway and Jaroslav Baba of the Czech Republic each cleared 2.34 meters (7-8) on the first try, but Nieto needed a second attempt. Baba edged out Nieto on the basis of fewer misses at 2.34 meters; Hemingway placed ahead of Baba because Hemingway had cleared the previous height, 2.32 meters, on his first try and Baba had missed twice.

Christian Olsson of Sweden won the men's triple jump at 17.79 meters (58-4 1/2 ). Marian Oprea of Romania and Danila Burkenya of Russia finished second and third. Kenta Bell of the U.S. finished ninth at 16.90 (55-5 1/2 ) and Walter Davis was 11th at 16.78 (55-0 3/4 ).

World-record holder Hicham El Guerrouj of Morocco ran a 3:40.87 to win his 1,500-meter heat and advance to Tuesday's final. His compatriot, Adil Kaouch, led the qualifiers at 3:35.69.

Monique Hennagan's 49.88 was the top semifinal time in the women's 400, sending her to Tuesday's final. College standouts DeeDee Trotter (50.14) and Sanya Richards (50.54) also advanced.

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