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ATHENS 2004

She's All Clear

Two crash at the start of 100 hurdles, but Hayes powers to gold and record

August 25, 2004|Mike Penner | Times Staff Writer

ATHENS — In a race Tuesday night that began with a two-lane pileup and ended with the Russian track federation filing a protest, the gold medal went to the first woman standing, Joanna Hayes of the United States.

Hayes completed the women's 100-meter hurdles final in an Olympic-record 12.37 seconds, the key being that she completed the race. Canada's Perdita Felicien, the reigning world champion, turned an eight-woman race into a six-woman event when she stepped on the crossbar of the first hurdle, crashed and rolled into the lane to her right, taking Russia's Irina Shevchenko down with her.

Both athletes watched helplessly as Hayes reached the finish first, much to her own amazement, followed by Ukrainian Olena Krasovska in 12.45 and American Melissa Morrison in 12.56.

Afterward, the Russian federation protested that Shevchenko had been impeded by Felicien. Track officials debated for nearly two hours before deciding to deny the protest early Wednesday morning.

"I feel for her," said Hayes, a graduate of Riverside John W. North High and UCLA and daughter of Los Angeles activist for the homeless Ted Hayes. "I know in the hurdles, though, so many things can happen. It gets dangerous."

Felicien, the favorite to win the race, knows too.

"I'm devastated," she said, her eyes nearly as red as her uniform. "I was ready to run that race. I was ready to do this. I never asked for the gold medal. I just wanted to do my best. [Now] I have to wait for four more years."

Felicien, the 2003 outdoor and 2004 indoor world champion, started poorly, much slower than Hayes' initial burst, and got into trouble trying to close the gap. Her lead foot struck the top of the first hurdle, sending Felicien flying out of her lane and into Lane 6. There she collided with Shevchenko, both runners crashing hard into the second row of hurdles.

"I don't think I was spooked or anything, but she definitely got out on me," Felicien said, alluding to Hayes. "I'm a closer and I should have relied on that.

"I made contact with the hurdle on the eighth step. It was only eight steps to the first hurdle. I tumbled, fell and that was it."

Renaldo Nehemiah, former world-record holder in the men's 110-meter hurdles and an agent here representing several U.S. athletes, said Felicien learned "a cruel lesson. You learn it once....

"From a technical standpoint, she was beaten out of the box, straightened up and tried to make it up, and landed on the first hurdle. It wasn't panic. It was just a matter of rhythm. She was trying to put herself back in the race on the first hurdle and landed on the crossbar."

As the race ended, Felicien was on her back near the start, crying in frustration. Moments later, Hayes was staggering beyond the finish, shedding tears of jubilation.

"I'm so excited," said Hayes, whose 12.37 surpassed the previous Olympic record of 12.38, set in 1988 by Bulgaria's Yordanka Donkova. "I planned on winning. I told myself, 'Just stay in your lane. Stay focused.'

"That's the time I wanted. In fact, I e-mailed a friend of mine before the race and said I wanted 12.37. I came out strong. I hit a couple hurdles and I was, like, 'Don't mess up.' "

But would Hayes still have won had Felicien not messed up?

"I don't think anybody was going to beat me today," Hayes said.

For Morrison, the bronze medal was her second in as many Olympics.

"Another bronze!" Morrison said with a smile. "I am ecstatic. I was hoping to bring home the gold, but this also feels good.... To crash two hurdles in a race like that and still finish third, I can only be happy."

Felicien, meanwhile, was a restless mix of anger, disappointment and defiance.

"For my end to come like this, this is not my destiny," she said. "It's not my fate. But what can I do? I'm going to go home now and bawl my eyes out.

"You better believe they'll have a force to be reckoned with the next four years. The only satisfaction I'll ever get now is to break the world record. That's what I'm setting my sights on. I'm not going down like this again."

*

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

On the right track

Selected medal results from Tuesday's track and field competition:

MEN'S 1,500

GOLD: Hicham El Guerrouj, Morocco

SILVER: Bernard Lagat, Kenya

BRONZE: Rui Silva, Portugal

DECATHLON

GOLD: Roman Sebrle. Czech Republic

SILVER: Bryan Clay. Azusa

BRONZE: Dmitriy Karpov, Kazakhstan

WOMEN'S 400

GOLD: Tonique Williams-Darling, Bahamas

SILVER: Ana Guevara, Mexico

BRONZE: Natalya Antyukh. Russia

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