U.S. men sweep 400m hurdles; 2000 champ Taylor wins gold

BEIJING -- The American track team was in bad need of a comeback, and Angelo Taylor was the perfect person to provide it.

Taylor, a once-troubled 29-year-old who was laying electrical wire 14 months ago, became the first 400-meter hurdler since Edwin Moses to win gold medals eight years apart Monday. He led the first sweep of the event since the U.S. did it in 1960 and lifted sagging American fortunes after a disappointing start to their Beijing Olympics.

"We wanted to uplift the track team," Taylor said, "and bring home the sweep."

Shoved to the fringes of the sport after pleading guilty in 2005 to charges of contributing to the delinquency of two underage girls, Taylor won the race in a personal-best time of 47.25 seconds to defeat teammates Kerron Clement and Bershawn Jackson.

"To go through what I went through and be back on top again -- I'm just so blessed right now," Taylor said.

The hurdlers were considered sweep candidates, but the U.S. had learned over the first three days of the meet that there's a big difference between being picked to do something and doing it.

Tyson Gay didn't reach the 100-meter finals. Reese Hoffa finished seventh in the shot put. Bernard Lagat didn't make it out of semifinals in the 1,500. That was only part of it.

The sweep in the hurdles wasn't as shocking as the fact that Taylor led the way.

Starting in Lane 6, he made up the lag quickly and was racing in front from about the 150-meter mark on. Clement, the 2007 world champion, and Jackson closed the gap down the stretch, but this was a pretty easy victory for Taylor.

And what a guy to lead a comeback.

His gold at the Sydney Olympics was the high point in a career that got derailed, first with injuries, then when he was put on probation in a case that started when he was arrested after a police officer said he found him naked in a car with a 15-year-old girl.

"Any mistakes I made, I put the blame on me," Taylor said earlier this month, when asked about his legal troubles. "It was up to me to do something, to change things."

His sponsorship pulled, he took a job laying electrical cable in Atlanta -- one that got him off work early enough so he could train in the afternoons.

The injuries started to heal and suddenly Taylor found himself in Olympic form. He finished third at the Olympic trials and peaked at exactly the right time.