ATHENS, Greece -- Hicham El Guerrouj kissed the track that
had finally yielded a gold medal. Joanna Hayes covered her mouth in
shock. Roman Sebrle pulled off his shoes and collapsed to the
track, chest heaving.
And Yelena Isinbayeva soared where no woman had gone before,
screaming in midair as she easily broke her own pole vault world
record Tuesday to win a classic duel with a Russian compatriot.
After heartbreaking losses in the previous two Olympics, El
Guerrouj won gold in the 1,500 meters by holding off Kenya's
Bernard Lagat in a dramatic test of wills on the homestretch. Four
years ago El Guerrouj was edged by another Kenyan, and in 1996 he
fell on the last lap.
El Guerrouj defeated Lagat by .12 seconds, then kneeled as other
runners came over to hug and caress the sobbing Moroccan. On his
victory lap, the flag-draped El Guerrouj did an impromptu dance to
Greek music playing over the loudspeakers.
Hayes and Sebrle both won gold medals and set Olympic records --
Hayes in the 100-meter hurdles and Sebrle in the grueling
decathlon. But while Sebrle's victory was a coronation, Hayes' came
as a surprise.
Hurdles world champion Perdita Felicien caused a violent crash
just steps into the race when she stepped on the first hurdle and
tumbled into the runner one lane over. Both were knocked out of the
race, making way for Hayes to win in 12.37 seconds.
The old Olympic record of 12.38 was set by Bulgaria's Yordanka
Donkova at the 1988 Seoul Games. U.S. teammate Melissa Morrison finished third for the bronze.
Felicien, a Canadian who was an NCAA champion at Illinois, hit
the first hurdle and stumbled into Russia's Irina Shevchenko.
The Russian Olympic Federation protested the result of the
Sebrle finished with 8,893 points, breaking by 46 points the
Olympic record set 20 years ago by Daley Thompson. He walked slowly
around the track to celebrate, barefoot and wrapped in a Czech
flag. The silver medal went to American Bryan Clay.
Clay finished just 71 points off the American record, totaling
8,820. The bronze medal went to Dmitriy Karpov of Kazakhstan with
The world champion, American Tom Pappas, withdrew during the
pole vault portion of the event Tuesday afternoon because of a left
foot injury. He was in fifth place at that point, with little
chance of getting a medal.
Isinbayeva, who cleared 16 feet, 1 1/4 inches (4.91 meters) with
room to spare, had only smiles. She ran into the stands and then
pranced around the track. She has set four world records in the
last two months.
Second in the pole vault was her countrywoman, Svetlana
Feofanova. Anna Rogowska of Poland got the bronze. All broke the
Olympic record in an event that debuted four years ago.
Other winners Tuesday were Tonique Williams-Darling of the
Bahamas in the 400 and Ezekiel Kemboi of Kenya in the 3,000-meter
In the steeplechase, Kenyans swept the medals -- Kemboi winning
in 8 minutes, 5.81 seconds, followed by Brimin Kipruto and Paul
Koech. The three danced together after crossing the finish line.
Allyson Felix won her semifinal heat in 22.36 in the women's
200, and was joined by U.S. teammate Muna Lee (22.69) in
Wednesday's final. Merlene Ottey, 44, in her seventh Olympic Games,
pulled up midway through what almost certainly was her last Olympic
In Tuesday's earlier preliminary heats, Shawn Crawford was all business, speeding into the semifinals of the 200 meters in 19.95 seconds despite slowing significantly in the last 20 meters of the race.
As opposed to his antics in the early rounds of the 100 -- when
he wore a baseball cap backward, pretended to spike a football
after winning a heat and high-stepped the final few meters of the
semifinals -- Crawford focused only on running in Tuesday's two
Crawford's time was the fastest of the second round and the
third fastest in the world this year.
"I just wanted to take first place, take the lead and hold it
and give myself a nice lane for the semis and I accomplished
that,'' he said. "I'm trying to be conservative. Usually I'm out
there trying to be a superman and prove that I'm a true athlete by
going hard every round while everybody conserves. But I'm going to
play this game with these fellas and conserve.''
Crawford, who finished fourth in the 100 after dominating the
early rounds, was joined in the semis by U.S. teammates Bernard
Williams and Justin Gatlin, the 100-meter gold medalist.
Williams won his heat in 20.40, while Gatlin was first in his
heat in 20.03. Also advancing to Wednesday night's semifinals were
100 silver medalist Francis Obikwelu of Portugal and two-time
silver medalist Frank Fredericks of Namibia.
Usain Bolt, the 17-year-old Jamaican who is the only person
other than Crawford to break 20 seconds this year, failed to make
it through the opening round.
Absent was defending champion Kostas Kenteris, who withdrew from
the Athens Games after missing a drug test. His attempt to win 200
gold in his homeland had been expected to be one of the highlights
for Greek fans.
In the 400-meter hurdles, Felix Sanchez of the Dominican
Republic had the best time of 47.93 in the semifinals. He has not
lost in more than three years. Americans James Carter and Bennie
Brazell also reached the final, but teammate Angelo Taylor -- the
defending Olympic champion -- was eliminated.