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Lightning Strikes Twice
Jamaican Bolt Captures Sprint Double; Crawford, Dix Medal After 2 Lane DQs

By Amy Shipley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 21, 2008

BEIJING, Aug. 21 -- 200 {vbar} 19.30 SECONDS Yesterday, he becomes the first to win 100-200 double while setting world records in each.

As television commentators spewed superlatives about Usain Bolt's run in the Olympic 200 meters, and Bolt wrapped himself in a flag and shimmied in front of a worshipful crowd, chaos quietly began to unfold in the bowels of Beijing's National Stadium.

Over the next two hours, there would be a disqualification, a protest, an acceptance, an appeal and a second disqualification.

By early Thursday morning, only one of the three men who took victory laps celebrating an Olympic medal in the 200 meters Wednesday night would get to accept it. The only thing untouched after track officials had pored over replays of the race was Bolt's world record finish in 19.30 seconds, which surpassed Michael Johnson's 1996 mark by .02 of a second.

Second-place finisher Churandy Martina (19.82) of Netherlands Antilles earned a disqualification for stepping out of his lane. So did third-place finisher Wallace Spearmon (19.95) of the United States. As a result, Spearmon's teammates, Shawn Crawford and Walter Dix, ended up being awarded the silver and bronze medals.

For the United States, the night produced confusion, anger and disappointment -- but also a net gain in the medal column. Spearmon didn't win the bronze that he spent nearly 10 minutes celebrating in front of an international television audience. Crawford, who finished in 19.96, leapt from fourth to the silver medal but felt too awkward for revelry, describing himself as a "charity case."

And Dix, a burgeoning American star, climbed from fifth place in 19.98 to his second bronze medal of the week. Yet he had no idea he had any chance of reaching the medal stand when he unloaded his irritation over his performance to dozens of reporters.

"You never picture yourself coming home with a medal due to a DQ," Crawford said. "Every time I look at it, I'm going to be like: 'This medal was given to me. I don't deserve it.' "

The confusion began just before the start of the women's 400 hurdle final, a race in which Gar-Field High graduate Sheena (Johnson) Tosta finished in 53.70 seconds to claim the silver medal behind Jamaica's Melaine Walker (52.64). As the women lined up, with Tosta determined to avenge her fourth-place finish in the 2004 Summer Games, Bolt, Spearmon and Martina neared the finish of their giddy victory lap.

They were about halfway down the homestretch when a "DQ" -- disqualified -- suddenly appeared on the scoreboard next to Spearmon's name. When made aware of it, Spearmon touched his own chest as if to say, "Me?" Then his expression sank. He balled up the American flag he was holding, walked toward the exit at the end of the track and pitched it to Crawford, who had been doing a television interview about his fourth-place finish.

Crawford, also digesting the information on the scoreboard, realized he had just won a bronze medal (it wouldn't be upgraded to silver for nearly two more hours).

"I just stood there like, 'Man, what do I do?' " Crawford said. "By the time they announced the DQ, they were already lining up for the 400 hurdles. I didn't want to take a victory lap anyway. That just didn't seem classy to me."

Crawford, the 2004 Olympic gold medal winner, described Spearmon as "very upset," but said he walked by so quickly they did not exchange words. Spearmon did not make himself available for interviews after the race.

"He did the whole victory lap and had the flag for the whole world to see," Crawford said. "That's heartbreaking. If that was me, I probably would have broken down and cried right there on worldwide television."

Crawford, 30, said he and Spearmon are suite-mates at the Athletes' Village and had become close over the years. Crawford trains in Los Angeles with Bobby Kersee. Spearmon, 23, won the bronze at last year's world championships in Osaka, Japan.

"I share his pain right now," Crawford said.

U.S. officials immediately protested Spearmon's disqualification to the Jury of Appeal for the world track governing body (IAAF), which consists of three IAAF Council members on rotation. But after reviewing the race, U.S. officials became convinced he had, indeed, stepped out of his lane while running the turn.

But they had noticed that Martina had also stepped out of Lane Six. So they withdrew their protest and filed a new appeal.

"We saw the violation and appealed that result," U.S. men's head coach Bubba Thornton said in a statement. "We then went through the rules process. We wanted to make sure that the results of the race were fair."

It was the second appeal that dragged on. It was about 12:20 a.m. when the decision was reached. Bolt was in the midst of the traditional post-race news conference with the medal winners at the time. Because second and third place had not been sorted out, he took questions by himself.

When word came of the final decision, Dix had long since left the track. Shortly after the race, Dix, 22, had been curt and hurried during interviews, and he refused to make any comment about Bolt's performance. When pressed, he turned and walked away.

"I don't want to talk about it," he said. "Things happen."

Many, many things happened Wednesday -- and Thursday. Tosta, who claimed her first Olympic medal, might have had the best perspective of anyone. After having won 15 state championships and succeeded in her first two years at UCLA, she had expected to challenge for the gold four years ago in Athens. It took her two years, she said, to get over her fourth-place finish. Since those Olympics, she changed coaches twice and got married to former decathlete Joey Tosta, who is now her coach.

But she never lost focus on her goal of winning an Olympic medal.

After all, "the difference between getting fourth and getting second," she said, "is like a mountain."

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