They shared tonight's biggest prize. They shared a smothering embrace. They are friends, training partners and, as of tonight, both world champions in the 200 meters.
U.S. sprinter Maurice Greene won his second gold medal of the world track and field championships in the men's 200, moments after training pal Inger Miller completed a breakthrough week by winning the women's 200 for her second medal of the championships at Olympic Stadium.
Greene, who became the first man to win a 100-200 combination at a major international event since Carl Lewis did it at the 1984 Olympic Games, stood on the medal stand with a quivering lip and tears streaming down his face.
Miller, who has made no less than stunning progress since joining Greene's training team in January, let injured star Marion Jones know that her place atop the world of women's sprinting is not secure. Miller finished just behind Jones in the women's 100 meters Sunday, but their anticipated rematch in the 200 dissolved when Jones was injured in the 200 quarterfinals.
Another message was sent in a race of less importance, at least in the medal standings. American Marla Runyan, the first legally blind runner to compete among fully sighted runners at a major world competition, used a furious kick to finish fourth in her semifinal heat, good enough to qualify for Sunday's 1,500 meter final.
"I don't know even how to approach the final," said Runyan, 30. "I don't know what to do. I might be running scared."
Fear did not appear to be an issue for either Greene or Miller tonight.
Miller's time of 21.77 hinted that she might have won even if Jones, the runaway favorite who collapsed with back spasms Wednesday and withdrew from the meet, had participated. The time was Miller's fourth personal best of the week, and it exceeded Jones's fastest time in the 200 this year.
Entering this summer, many in the track world wondered if Jones would have any competition leading up to the 2000 Games in Sydney. They weren't, however, keeping a close eye on Miller, who had recently joined the Southern California training group led by coach John Smith. Miller, who finished fifth in the 100 and 200 at the 1997 world championships, offered an unsolicited scoop to a group of writers after her race.
"You know what, everybody?" Miller shouted in the interview area. "It's not a one-woman show anymore."
In the world of men's sprinting, however, a one-person show is precisely what it has become. Greene set the world record in the 100 meters this summer (9.79 seconds). He won his second straight world title in the 100 on Sunday. Tonight, the 25-year-old Greene achieved a new height, and that accomplishment, he said, brought him to tears. His finish in 19.90 left Brazilian Claudinei Quirino Da Silva with his second silver medal finish of the week (20.00).
"For me to come here and win the gold medal in the 100, that was great for me," Greene said. "But for me to try something I'd never done before, to take my body places it's never been . . . it feels wonderful. They were tears of joy, and I'm still crying inside."
Miller left very little on the inside. Her emotions spilled and spurted like a waterfall. The daughter of Jamaican sprinter Lennox Miller, she was coached by her father, a former Olympian, until she moved to Phillips Ranch, Calif., outside of Los Angeles to join Smith and the 20 or so who participate in his training group, Hudson Smith International (HSI). Besides Greene, world-class sprinters Ato Boldon and Jon Drummond also train with HSI, as does up-and-coming hurdler Larry Wade.
HSI has stepped into the role once occupied by the elite Santa Monica track club, which at its peak boasted Lewis, Leroy Burrell, Mike Marsh and a host of other Olympians.
"It's the atmosphere, the encouragement, the camaraderie we have as a group," Miller said. "HSI is wonderful."
Said Greene: "We practice together, we eat together, we go out and have a lot of fun. . . . This is basically what we work for, to put it all together in the final race. I really can't put a level on how happy I am for myself, and I'm very proud of Inger."
Greene hung on to a healthy lead despite a late push by Da Silva. In the women's 200, Miller broke away after the turn and was not challenged. Jamaica's Beverly McDonald won the silver in 22.22 and Jamaica's Merlene Frazer won the bronze in 22.26. Another major star missing from this event was Jamaican Merlene Ottey, who withdrew after it was announced that she had tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs.
Still, even if the 200 field wasn't world class, Miller's time certainly was.
"I'm beyond pleased," Miller said. "I've always figured I could run that fast. I just didn't figure it was going to be today."