Americans Dawn Harper, right, and Kellie Wells celebrate their silver… (Kerim Okten / EPA )
LONDON — Dawn Harper probably smiled more Tuesday as an Olympic silver medalist than she did as a champion four years ago at Beijing, when she was 24 and the 100-meter hurdle title landed in her lap after teammate Lolo Jones stumbled.
Her knees scarred but her spirit intact, Harper battled Australia's Sally Pearson as hotly as the flame in the Olympic Stadium caldron. Pearson needed an Olympic-record time of 12.35 seconds to edge past Harper's personal-best 12.37-second performance, with Americans Kellie Wells and Jones close behind at 12.48 and 12.58, respectively.
Two years after she had knee surgery and a doctor said she might never hurdle again, Harper achieved a new excellence and a perspective that made her second-place finish feel like a triumph.
PHOTOS: London Olympics, Day 11
"To go from that to this . . . there were many times I broke down crying," said Harper, who trains in Los Angeles. "I was like, 'Lord, this is what you see for me.' I thought I had a gift."
She has several gifts, including inspiring Pearson and Wells.
"I'm happy for Sally. I'm happy for Dawn. I'm happy for myself," said bronze medalist Wells, whose powerful start wasn't enough to head off Pearson. "I think the best three came out on top today."
Pearson, the Beijing silver medalist, initially wasn't sure of the outcome. "I thought I won and looked to my left and thought maybe I didn't. It was really quite close," she said. "When I saw my name on the scoreboard at No. 1, it was a dream come true."
Surprisingly, American athletes proved as good at long races as the sprints and hurdles. Leonel Manzano of Marble Falls, Texas, finished second in the 1,500, the first American man to win a medal in that race since Jim Ryun won silver in 1968. And Nick Symmonds and Duane Solomon Jr. qualified for the 800 final, the first time the U.S. has had two finalists since 1992.
Coupled with Galen Rupp's silver in the 10,000, this is the first Olympics since 1968 in which American men have won two medals at distances of 1,500 meters or more.
"We've got the Galen Rupp and we've got the Manzano. We're fierce," Harper said.
Taoufik Makhloufi of Algeria, who was expelled from the Games for not going all-out in his 800-meter heat but was later reinstated, won the 1,500 in 3 minutes 34.08 seconds. Manzano, who surged from sixth to second in the last 150 meters, finished in 3:34.79. Abdalaati Iguider of Morocco was third. Matt Centrowitz finished fourth, .04 away from another U.S. distance medal.
"That was the first time I've ever cried on a track. That's stronger than words, I guess," Manzano said. "Today was definitely my day."
Erik Kynard of Toledo, Ohio, cleared 7 feet 73/4 inches in the high jump to win a surprise silver medal just a few months after winning the NCAA title for Kansas State. Jamie Nieto of Sacramento finished sixth.
World high jump champion Jesse Williams couldn't clear 7-41/2 and was out early. "I know I'm a much better jumper than what I did today," the former USC standout said.
In the semifinals of the women's 200, Sanya Richards-Ross leaned past Jamaica's Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce to win their heat in 22.30 seconds and get a better lane for Wednesday's final. Richards-Ross won gold in the 400 and Fraser-Pryce won the 100.
"This is just a lot of fun for me and I really, really do want to grab a medal, but either way I'm still Olympic champion," Richards-Ross said.
Carmelita Jeter of Gardena, the 100-meter silver medalist, also advanced with a time of 22.39 seconds. Two-time 200-meter silver medalist Allyson Felix of Los Angeles won her heat in a comfortable 22.31. "I've spent a long time waiting for this moment," she said.
Jamaica's Usain Bolt eased through the first round of the men's 200, jogging to the finish line in 20.39 seconds. Americans Isiah Young (20.55), Maurice Mitchell (20.54) and Wallace Spearmon Jr. (20.47) also advanced to Wednesday's semifinals.
"It's my first round, so I was happy with myself. It's just about qualifying and taking it as easy as possible," Bolt said.
China's Liu Xiang, the Athens gold medalist in the 110-meter hurdles, suffered an apparent right Achilles' tendon injury after he hit the first hurdle in his first-round heat and dropped to the ground. Still, he rose and hopped to the finish line on his left foot. Americans Aries Merritt (13.07), Jason Richardson (13.33) and Jeff Porter (13.53) advanced.
In the women's 5,000, Molly Huddle of Elmira, N.Y., qualified eighth with a time of 15 minutes 2.26 seconds, and Juley Culley of Clinton, N.J., ranked 12th with a personal-best time of 15:05.38. . . . Will Claye, the long jump bronze medalist, advanced to the triple jump final with a last attempt of 55 feet 41/4 inches. Christian Taylor qualified at 56-51/4. . . . Janay DeLoach of Fort Collins, Colo., and Brittney Reese of Gulfport, Miss., advanced to the women's long jump final.