Gail Devers's remarkable stretch of Olympic misfortune in the 100 hurdles continued Sunday when she collapsed in agony before the first hurdle in the first round of the event, falling under it and screaming in pain. Devers, who sat on the track massaging a severely sprained left calf muscle for several minutes, was driven off on a cart.
A three-time world champion and nine-time U.S. champion in the event, Devers, 37, has never won an Olympic medal in the 100 hurdles despite attempts at every Games since 1988.
Devers, who also failed to advance to Saturday's 100 final, wore a wrap around her left shin but declined at the time to discuss the injury. After the fall Sunday, she said the injury occurred a week ago while training in Atlanta.
"On my last practice start I actually heard it pop," she said. "I tried not to scream because all the cameras were on me. Out on the warmup track I was waiting for it to loosen up but it just never happened."
Devers' stunning elimination raised questions about her decision to compete in the 100 rather than offering the position to Marion Jones, the 2000 Olympic champion. Devers, who finished fourth in the 100 at the U.S. Olympic trials, earned the right to compete in the event at the Games when Torri Edwards, the 100 champion, was banned for stimulant use. Jones, who finished fifth, was next in line for the spot.
Devers said Saturday she had no regrets about accepting the position. Sunday, however, she suggested that she knew the injury would prevent her from advancing far at these Games.
"Everybody has their obstacles to overcome," she said. "To tell you the truth, I was only hoping to get through the first round."
At the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney, Devers injured her hamstring, failing to advance past the 100 hurdle semifinals. At the 1996 Games in Atlanta, Devers finished fourth in 12.66 seconds; in 1992 in Barcelona, she finished fifth. At her first Olympics in Seoul in 1988, she was eliminated in the semifinals.
Silver for Hemingway
American Matt Hemingway claimed a silver medal in the high jump, clearing 7 feet 71/4 inches. He finished behind Sweden's Stefan Holm, whom he had led throughout the competition.
Hemingway successfully cleared 7-21/2, 7-4 1/2 and 7-71/4 on his first attempts. Holm had three misses along the way, but managed to surpass 7-8. Hemingway missed three attempts at that height.
"I knew at the Olympic trials that I was in great shape and I was ready to go," Hemingway said. "It was just a matter of putting it together . . . Holm wasn't expecting me, so I just had to have focus. I tried to stay focused on jumping the bar and not the competition. I just was on." . . .
Gar-Field High graduate Sheena Johnson advanced to the 400 hurdles final with the seventh-best time among eight qualifiers, 54.32 seconds. Johnson, who posted the world-leading time at the U.S. Olympic trials in July, finished third in her heat behind world record holder Yuliya Pechenkina of Russia (53.31) and Australian star Jana Pittman (54.05).
"I'm happy to be in the final," Johnson said. "From now on, everything is possible. I've got to stay awake." . . .
World record holder Hicham El Guerrouj won a slow, tactical 1,500 semifinal in 3 minutes 40.87 seconds. El Guerrouj, a four-time world champion, is seeking his first Olympic gold medal in the event. In the other semifinal, Morocco's Adil Kaouch (3:35.69) edged Kenyan Bernard Lagat (3:35.84). . . .
American Monique Hennagan led all qualifiers in the 400 semifinals, finishing in 49.88 seconds. Mexico's Ana Guevara, the favorite in the event, posted the top time in her heat, 50.15 seconds, the fifth-fastest time of the night. American DeeDee Trotter (50.14) and Sanya Richards (50.54) also advanced to the final. . . .
Russian shot putter Irina Korzhanenko tested positive for steroids after winning the first women's gold medal at Ancient Olympia last Wednesday, international and Russian officials said Sunday. Korzhanenko could be stripped of the gold, sent home from the Games and later banned by her international federation.
Meantime, Leonidas Sampanis, a Greek weight lifter, became the first athlete of the Athens Games to be stripped of a medal for a doping offense, losing his bronze medal in the 137-pound category. He tested positive for testosterone.