Gay stuns with fastest-ever 100 meters

EUGENE, Ore. - If the sprinting world had any question about how prepared Tyson Gay is to repeat his gold-medal performances of the 2007 World Championships at the Olympic Games, he answered that question with a roar Sunday at the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team Trials - Track & Field.

(PHOTO) Tyson Gay crosses the finish line ahead of Darvis Patton, right, to win the men's 100 meter final with a wind-assisted time of 9.68 seconds at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials in Eugene, Ore., Sunday, June 29, 2008. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

With a 4.1 meters-per-second wind behind him, the world 100 and 200m champion ran the fastest 100 meters ever by a human being, 9.68, to win the men's 100m Olympic Trials title. Moments after Gay crossed the line, the flags at Hayward Field fell still, leaving observers to wonder what a slightly more tame, and legal, breeze would have resulted in.

No matter. Gay headlines an American 100 meter squad that will be looking for multiple medals in Beijing. 2007 NCAA champion Walter Dix was next across the line Sunday in 9.80, followed by 2003 World Outdoor 200m silver medalist Darvis Patton. Completing the field were collegiate record holder Travis Padgett (9.85), Rodney Martin (9.97), Leroy Dixon (9.99), Michael Rodgers (10.01) and Xavier Carter (10.11).

Prior to Sunday, the fastest time ever run had been 9.69 by Obadele Thompson in 1996, where a wind in excess of 5mps couldn't be accurately measured. Earlier Sunday, Gay had been somewhat leisurely in the first stage of his semifinal race but came on to win in 9.85 (+2.2mps), while Patton won the second semi in 10.04 (+0.5).

The top three finishers in each event at these Olympic Trials, who have met Olympic performance standards, will earn the ultimate prize of a spot on the Team USA roster for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China.

Drama, heartbreak in women's 400 hurdles

America's best women's 400m hurdlers laid it on the line Sunday, with many questions to be answered. Former #1 world-ranked Lashinda Demus was trying to make her second Olympic team one year to the month after giving birth to twin boys, 2007 Visa Champion Tiffany Ross-Williams was looking to repeat as national champion, and Olympic Trials record holder Sheena Tosta was looking to get back on top.

Coming into the final stretch, Ross-Williams led fellow South Carolina grad Demus over the final hurdle. Although the final meters off the last hurdle are normally a strong point for Demus, she was passed in the waning stages of the race by surprising Queen Harrison of Virginia Tech, who ended second in 54.60, and Tosta, who was third in 54.62. Demus ended fourth in 54.76.

Experience reigns in men's 400H, women's discus

The American lineup for the men's 400 hurdles is steeped in both talent and experience. After placing fourth at the 2004 Olympic Trials, the eminently competitive Bershawn "Batman" Jackson entered the homestretch in the lead and never relinquished it. The 2005 world champion won handily in 48.17, with 2007 world champion Kerron Clement holding on for second (48.36) and 2000 Olympic gold medalist Angelo Taylor taking third (48.42).

Likewise, there were no surprises in the women's discus. Three-time national champion Aretha Thurmond returned to the top of the podium after having a child in spring of last year, winning her fourth career national title and second Olympic Trials crown with a toss of 65.20m/213-11. She will be joined on the U.S. team by American record holder Suzy Powell-Roos (62.92m/206-5) and 2004 Olympian Stephanie Brown Trafton (62.65m/205-6).

Battle over the bar

Voices of experience were heard loud and clear in the men's pole vault, where the most seasoned U.S. competitors seemed to best deal with the swirling breezes. A competition that had been rife with passed heights and tricky winds got slimmed down rapidly midway through the competition.

2006 USA outdoor champion Russ Buller withdrew from the competition with an injury after clearing 5.60m/18-4.5 for fourth place, leaving only Derek Miles, four-time national champion Jeff Hartwig and world champion and American record holder Brad Walker remaining. Their Olympic spots assured, it became a matter of determining the winner.

Emerging from several years of at times mysterious injury battles, Miles cleared 5.80m/19-0.25 on his second attempt to take the lead as Hartwig, with a best clearance of 5.70m/18-8.25, failed to clear the height. Walker ran through on his second attempt at 5.80m and passed on his third attempt, then chose to call it a day. Walker had cleared 5.65m/18-6.5 on his very first attempt of the competition, and it was enough to ensure he is Beijing-bound.

Miles then raised the bar to 5.91m/19-4.75 in an effort to break Tim Mack's Olympic Trials record of 5.90m, but took two tries before he, too, had had enough. It was the first national outdoor title and second Olympic berth for the 35-year-old Miles, who also competed in Athens in 2004.

Hartwig will be 41 in September and is the oldest American man ever to make an Olympic pole vault team.

Long jump surprise

In another dramatic field-event competition, the biggest casualty of the day came in the men's long jump.

2008 USA indoor champion Trevell Quinley moved from third to first on his last jump of 8.36m/27-5.5 (+1.6), a huge personal best by 14cm. With the leap, he knocked Brian Johnson down to second (8.30m/27-2.75) and Miguel Pate to third (8.22m/26-11.75). Competing on the same runway where he suffered a near career-ending knee injury in 2003, Pate was the comeback story in the jump final, leaping up and down the runway after securing his spot for Beijing.

Dwight Phillips won't have the opportunity to defend his 2004 Olympic gold medal in the event. The two-time world champion fell from third to fourth in the fifth round of jumping and was unable to move back to third on his sixth and final jump. He was less than an inch out of third, with a best of 8.20m/26-11).

Two-woman triple jump team

The women's triple jump featured great competition and a near-miss for one competitor. Two-time defending U.S. outdoor champion Shani Marks was the class of the field, winning with a Hayward Field record of 14.38m/47-2.25 (+1.4mps). Veteran Shakeema Welsch was second with 14.27m/46-10.0 (+3.5mps) and 2005 USA champion Erica McClain was third with 13.96m/45-9.75 (+0.4mps). Marks and McClain entered the Olympic Trials already with the Olympic "A" standard of 14.20m, necessary to compete in Beijing. Although Welsch exceeded 14.20m in Eugene, her mark was wind-aided so will not be accepted as an A standard. Marks and McClain will represent Team USA in at the Olympics.

Three men control decathlon

After one day of competition, the decathlon is shaping up as a three-man race between former 2005 world champion Bryan Clay, NCAA champion Trey Hardee, and 2003 world champion Tom Pappas.

Clay and Pappas traded wins through the first four events. The 28-year-old Clay had a strong 100m (10.39, 1001 points) and high jump (2.08m/6-9.75 for 878 points), the first and fourth events, respectively, but struggled in the long jump and shot. The 31-year-old Pappas, by contrast, was very strong in those events, winning the long jump with a mark of 7.77m/25-6 (1002 points) and the shot put with a personal-best 17.26m/56-7.5 (929 points). The University of Oregon's Ashton Eaton had the fastest 400m time of 47.07.

At the end of the day, Clay led the point tally with 4,476, with the 24-year-old Hardee second (4,454) and Pappas third (4,405). Jangy Addy was a distant fourth (4,249).

Round and round In Sunday's qualifying action, Mary Wineberg won heat 1 of the women's 400m quarterfinals in 51.46, Natasha Hastings won heat 2 (51.51), Sanya Richards won heat 3 (51.08), and Dee Dee Trotter took the fourth heat (51.97). Winning their races on the men's side of the card were LaShawn Merritt (45.30), Jeremy Wariner (46.04), Lionel Larry (45.89) and Quentin Iglehart-Summers (45.87).

For complete coverage of the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team Trials - Track & Field, including results, athletes quotes, TV schedule and start lists, visit www.usatf.org


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