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British, American athletes shine in first track and field session

August 03, 2012|By Helene Elliott
  • Jessica Ennis of Britain smiles while competing in the heptathlon on Friday.
Jessica Ennis of Britain smiles while competing in the heptathlon on Friday. (Stu Forster / Getty Images )

(This report has been corrected. See below.)

LONDON -- A huge and lively crowd, a fast track that held up well under a morning shower, and an excellent morning for British athletes combined to create a festive air during the opening session of track and field competition Friday at Olympic Stadium.

Jessica Ennis of Britain started the day off with a roar and an Olympic heptathlon hurdles record. Ennis, the 2009 world heptathlon champion, was timed in 12.54 seconds, breaking the Olympic heptathlon hurdles record of 12.69 seconds set by Jackie Joyner-Kersee at Seoul in 1988 while winning the gold medal. Ennis' time also set a British record.

Ennis led Hyleas Fountain of Columbus, Ga., after the first two events, with the shot put and the 200 to follow Friday night. Ennis had 2,249 points and Fountain had 2,224. Katarina Johnson-Thompson of Liverpool, another crowd favorite, was third with 2,146 points.

Sharon Day of Costa Mesa was 21st with 1,981 points.

A deluge of rain descended on the stadium just as DeeDee Trotter prepared to run in the first round of the women's 400, but she made it through to the semifinals by winning her heat in 50.78 seconds. Amantle Montsho of Botswana, a medal contender, recorded the top qualifying time, 50.40. Francena McCorory of the U.S. (50.78) and U.S. trials champion Sanya Richards-Ross (51.78) also advanced to Saturday's semifinals without difficulty.

Richards-Ross breezed through her race, as planned.

"I felt really good. My coach wanted me to get out well, control the turn and then just come in as easy as possible and conserve as much energy as I could, and I felt I was able to do that," she said. "So I was very happy."

Richards-Ross said that despite the rain she considered the track to be fast. "I could still tell. My turnover felt really great on this track and I didn't feel like I was giving 100%, so I think it's going to give us a lot back when we're actually running very hard," she said. "I'm really looking forward to it."

Trotter said she was more exhausted by the effort it took her to reach the interview area than by the energy she had to expend on the track. Athletes must go down stairs and cover a winding path in order to speak to waiting reporters, which is inconvenient for those with tired legs.

"They've got to get an escalator or something out here," she said, laughing. "Other than that, I feel pretty good."

All three American men looked comfortable in getting past the first round of the 400-meter hurdles.

Javier Culson of Cuba had the top qualifying time, 48.33, and Beijing silver medalist Kerron Clement, who resides in Los Angeles in the off-season but trains in Gainesville, Fla., was timed in 48.48 seconds. Michael Tinsley (49.13) and two-time gold medalist Angelo Taylor (49.29) also moved on, as did Athens gold medalist Felix Sanchez of the Dominican Republic by way of USC.

Clement said he was pleased with how things went.

"It's a very fast track. I love it. I loved the crowd," he said. "The crowd's great on the first day. I'm pretty impressed by that."

Taylor said he felt good after running what he called an easy first round. "I did exactly what I wanted to do," he said. "I wanted to come out early and take command of the race, run hard to six [hurdles] and then just relax coming home, and I did that. I basically shut it off after the ninth hurdle and ran really easy coming home."

All three American entrants in the men's shot put advanced to Friday night's final, led by Reese Hoffa's throw of 21.36 meters (70 feet, one inch). Ryan Whiting qualified fourth, and Christian Cantwell was ninth.

The other final to be contested Friday night is the women’s 10,000 meters.

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Evan Jager of Algonquin, Ill., the U.S. Olympic trials champion and American record holder in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, advanced out of the first round Friday with a time of 8:16.61. It was the second-fastest time of the day. Amanda Smock of Melrose, Minn., the lone U.S. entrant in the women's triple jump, didn't advance past the qualifying round. However, Britons had another chance to cheer when Yamile Aldama advanced.

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Lamine Diack, president of the international track federation -- known as the IAAF -- issued a statement praising the London Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games and fans for filling the stadium for Friday's opening events.

"It was wonderful to arrive at the Olympic Games this morning and see a totally packed stadium for the first session of athletics. I do not remember the last time this happened and it shows the great affection Britain has for our sport," he said.

"LOCOG has done a great job and we are excited about the rest of the athletics program since the athletes will definitely be inspired by crowds like this."

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For the record: An earlier version of this report said that Kerron Clement trains in Los Angeles. He resides in Los Angeles in the off-season but has been training in Gainesville, Fla.

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