-- The Americans are taking Helsinki by storm, and Justin Gatlin is the whirlwind leading the way.
Thursday, Gatlin joined Maurice Greene as the only athletes to sweep the 100 and 200 at the world track and field championships. The 23-year-old sprinter, who outran kids racing him on bicycles as a child on the streets of Brooklyn, N.Y., led an unprecedented 1-2-3-4 U.S. finish in the 200 meters on a damp, chilly night.
"Double gold," Gatlin said. "I think I've sealed my fate right now as the king of sprints."
Two other Americans took home gold, as Walter Davis took a surprise victory in the triple jump and Michelle Perry won the 100-meter hurdles. Brad Walker added a silver behind winner Rens Blom of the Netherlands in the pole vault.
The powerhouse performance gave the United States 15 medals, seven more than second-place Russia. The Americans have nine golds. No other country has more than two.
The United States swept the 200 at the Athens Olympics, but other than Gatlin, a different group of sprinters capped Thursday night's onslaught with perhaps the most dominant performance since the world championships were first held in 1983.
The Americans had four entries in the 200 because John Capel had an automatic berth as defending champion. Gatlin, with his long strides, pulled away down the stretch to win in 20.04 seconds. Wallace Spearmon was second at 20.20 and Capel third at 20.31, just ahead of Tyson Gay's 20.34.
"I think I'm in shock and awe more than anybody else right now," Gatlin said.
When the race was over, the four huddled together to pray, then paraded with American flags. Gatlin also waved a Finnish flag, a display of thanks for the fans' support.
Gatlin was the only one of the four Americans who had run in the 100. Counting the preliminaries, the 200 final was his eighth race in six days, with the 4x100-meter relay still to go.
"He's amazing," Spearmon said. "He's a beast."
Davis took a stunning victory in the triple jump, going 57 feet 73/4 inches on his fifth attempt to become the first American to win the event since Mike Conley in 1993.
"I told him yesterday that he could win this thing," said Conley, executive director of elite athlete programs for USA Track and Field and third-place finisher at the 1991 world championships. "He always had a potential to be a champion at the world level."
"I surprised myself a little bit," said Davis, a former NCAA champion at Louisiana State. "But I knew if I could hit one, I'd be all right."
Perry, who has the best three times in the world this year, surged ahead over the last two hurdles to win in 12.66 seconds, far ahead of Delloreen Ennis-London of Jamaica in 12.76.
"I think this was my year for things to really work out for me," Perry said.
Perry was 14th in the heptathlon at the Athens Olympics and shifted her attention this year to the hurdles under Coach Bob Kersee, whose former pupils include Gail Devers and Jackie Joyner-Kersee.
Not everything went well for the United States, though. 2004 Olympic champion Joanna Hayes clipped the ninth hurdle, stumbled into the 10th, then fell face-down on the track, sobbing as she tried to pull herself up. She was taken from the track on a stretcher, but was not seriously hurt and said later that her tears came from emotional, not physical, pain.