FAYETTEVILLE -- The deafening noise inside the Bird's Nest -- the Olympic track and field stadium in Beijing -- drowned out the voice. Reveling in what he thought was a bronze-medal performance in Wednesday's 200-meter race, former Arkansas Razorback sprinter Wallace Spearmon couldn't quite hear the words.
When he finally did, Spearmon didn't want to hear them.
"My agent was calling me over and I heard him say something about being disqualified," Spearmon said during a phone interview on Thursday with The Morning News. "I said, 'Who?' And he said, 'You.' He pointed to the scoreboard and there was a DQ by my name. I was so confused, so upset. I just ran over to (American silver medalist) Shawn Crawford and gave him the (U.S.) flag."
"It was definitely the toughest time ever that I've had with track and field. I didn't expect to medal and then they took it away."
Just like that, Spearmon was erased from Olympic history, in heart-wrenching fashion.
"They don't even give you last place," Spearmon said. "I don't even get a place. It's devastating."
Spearmon ran out of lane No. 9 during the race, stepping on the line between lanes 8 and 9 on three separate occasions. The initial silver-medal finisher, Churandy Martina of Netherlands Antilles also was disqualified for stepping out of his lane. As a result Crawford and American Walter Dix earned the silver and bronze medals respectively.
A jubilant scene that quickly spiraled into confusion and anger followed the race's finish. Spearmon did the victory lap. He bounced around happily, draped in an American flag. He even picked up and carried his buddy and gold medalist Usain Bolt.
For a few moments, every minute of preparation for Beijing seemed worth the effort. He had edged out Crawford and Dix by mere hundredths of a second after a slow start.
"I hit the straight-away and I was close to last," said Spearmon, who fought through a torn meniscus in his right leg. "I just dug down deep and ended up getting third."
His third-place finish lasted for less than five minutes. Spearmon said he still hasn't seen a replay of the 200-meter race. He said he didn't know what the feeling will be like when he does.
"I want to see it," he said. "At the same time, though, I don't."
Spearmon said he had never been disqualified from a race before Wednesday -- not in professional races, not at Arkansas, not in high school, not even in youth track. He said he had no idea how he stepped on the inside line of lane No. 9 three times.
"I don't know why it happened," Spearmon said. "I like being in the outside lane. I was just so focused on competing. If you run the whole race looking down at the line, you'll finish last every time."
Spearmon isn't totally soured by his disqualification. He said he'd always remember his experience in Beijing. He admitted being a bit star-struck by meeting and talking to professional athletes such as Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Lindsay Davenport and Rafael Nadal.
He also got to meet both of the United States presidents with the last name Bush.
"That was amazing," Spearmon said. "They got all the athletes together right before the opening ceremonies for a team meeting, and the president showed up. He talked to all the groups individually. It was a brief conversation, but you could tell he was so excited for all of us."
Spearmon also said he liked how the millions of people watching around the world got to see the pre-race interactions between him and Bolt. Spearmon said he and Bolt, the world-record holder in both the 100 and 200 meters, became friends in 2005 and have enjoyed each other's company ever since.
Before they race, they're often joking with one another.
"Everyone else is so serious before we get out there," Spearmon said. "We both like to goof and play around before the race. I mean, before the semifinals, right before we're trying to make it to an Olympic final, I go around the corner, and there's this 6-foot-5 Jamaican there to scare me.
"Through all of this, I think we brought a lot of positive attention to track and field."
Spearmon will choose to focus on that instead of his lane mishap as he continues his professional career on the track.
"Everything I do now will be geared for 2012 in London," Spearmon said. "I just have to stay positive and keep working hard."
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