“I think my running style is a gift and a curse, because it looks very fluid,” Felix said. “It’s nice, but sometimes you have to get into that aggressive mode.”
That mode was all over the stadium Wednesday night. Reese, a former basketball player at Ole Miss, committed fouls on four of her six attempts in the long jump finals, so anxious was she to push herself further into the pit. But her second leap was 23 feet, 41
2 inches. Even as DeLoach and Russia’s Elena Sokolova took shot after shot, they couldn’t overcome it.
Reese, too, had her own travails in Beijing, where she finished fifth. “I cried the whole way home,” she said. Wednesday, she smiled.
Merritt also had to be aggressive in the 110-meter hurdles, given the field he faced when he arrived here. But in the morning heats, China’s Liu Xiang, the 2004 gold medallist, crashed out for the second straight Olympics. And in the evening final, Cuba’s Dayron Robles, the 2008 gold medallist, pulled up lame.
“I just heard this grimace, this loud yell,” Merritt said. “But I just kept running anyway.”
He did, finishing in 12.92 – one hundredth of a second off Xiang’s Olympic record, and eight hundredths ahead of Richardson, the 2011 world champion.
“I really don’t know what’s going on,” Merritt said.
It was, indeed, difficult to sort out. In one night, the U.S. asserted itself in a packed stadium, making the coming relays even more intriguing. Reese’s gold was the first in her event since Jackie Joyner-Kersee in 1988. Merritt and Richardson were the first American pair to go gold-silver in the 110 hurdles since 1996.
And then there was Felix, star-crossed — and now just a star.
“Now I’m able to say that I embraced that journey,” Felix said, “because that’s what has pushed me all these years.”
When she crossed the line in 21.88 seconds, 21 hundredths clear of silver medallist Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce of Jamaica, she took a moment to take it in, then raised her arms. In Beijing, she saw her family in the stands and broke down. Here, a smile grew, and wouldn’t leave. And when she draped herself in an American flag and began a lap around the stadium, she did so on a night when her compatriots took back the track, and when her silvers from Olympics past turned from burdens to accomplishments.