For U.S., Relay Chances Slip Away

By Amy Shipley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 22, 2008

BEIJING, Aug. 21 -- If you measure the night at the Olympic track by medals, it was a great one for the United States. Fabulous, even. In three finals, the United States won six medals: one gold, three silvers and two bronze.

But if your calculation takes into consideration other factors, such as relay batons bouncing around the track and national pride, it was a far more humbling night Thursday at Beijing's National Stadium.

Egos began to shrink when Jamaica's Veronica Campbell-Brown beat Allyson Felix to the gold medal in the women's 200 meters, leaving Felix distraught and securing a Jamaican sweep of the golds in the 100 and 200 sprints.

Embarrassment seeped in when dropped relay sticks doomed both U.S. 4x100 relay teams in the first round, the fumbling fiascos ensuring that the United States would get no shot to fight back at Jamaica in Friday's relay finals.

"This Olympics is the Jamaican Olympics," said Kerron Stewart, who won the 200 bronze. "No disrespect to the Americans . . . [but] this is our time."

For fans of the U.S. team, the best place to take in results might have been at a desk reading them on paper, because in black and white, the night looked pretty good: Americans swept the 400 final for the second straight Summer Games, with LaShawn Merritt topping 2004 champion Jeremy Wariner with his finish in 43.75 seconds. Wariner was clocked in 44.74, and David Neville stole the bronze with a full-out dive over the line in 44.80.

In the 110 hurdles, David Payne of Hampton, Va., and Howard University graduate David Oliver claimed the silver and bronze, respectively, behind Cuban world record holder Dayron Robles, who won in 12.93.

"Me and David, we went out there and held up our end of the bargain," said Oliver, who finished .01 behind Payne in 13.18. "They only pass out three of these every four years. If you get one of them, you will always be remembered."

There were a few other things that will be hard to forget.

Such as seeing Darvis Patton trying unsuccessfully to plant a baton in the hand of the anchor leg Tyson Gay, who kept reaching and reaching and reaching as if hoping the worst hadn't happened. It had. The flubbed exchange ensured he would leave his first Olympics without a medal.

Though it had been raining earlier and the track was slick, Patton and Gay said, the stick wasn't wet or slippery.

"Things happen sometimes," Gay said. "It wasn't the weather. It wasn't anything like that. It was a little bad luck. I feel like I let the team down."

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2008 The Washington Post Company