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Olympic Games 2008: LaShawn Merritt wins 400 meter gold; Jeremy Wariner second

21 August 2008
www.universalsports.com

LaShawn Merritt LaShawn Merritt
1. LaShawn Merritt (USA) - 43.75
2. Jeremy Wariner (USA) - 44.74
3. David Neville (USA) - 44.80
4. Chris Brown (BAH) - 44.84
5. Leslie Djhone (FRA) - 45.11
6. Martyn Rooney (GBR) - 45.12
7. Renny Quow (TRI) - 45.22
8. Johan Wissman (SWE) - 45.39

American LaShawn Merritt obliterated the field, including defending champion Jeremy Wariner, to win the Olympic men's 400 meters title on Thursday by the widest margin since 1896.

Merritt sealed a seventh straight gold in the event for the U.S., starting relatively slowly before blasting down the final straight to cross the line in a personal best of 43.75 seconds.

"I said nothing is going to get in my way." Merritt told reporters. "I said before the race this is my domain and I'm going to get it done. The game plan was to get out and use what I have. I'm 6'3". I went over some stuff last night and saw that some people were taking less steps than me in the race. And I'm 6'3", so why is that? I'm not using what I have. So I used my stride length and ran a great race."

Wariner, visibly frustrated and upset, finished a distant second in 44.74 seconds and David Neville took third with a spectacular dive for the line to complete a U.S. sweep of the medals.

"I ran the best I could," Wariner said of his dramatic slowdown in the closing stages, which nearly cost him his silver when Neville lunged for the line. I got out front in the first 200. I felt good coming out of the turn, but when I tried to go, I didn't have anything left."

"Sometimes we have to sacrifice our bodies, our minds and our spirit for what we really want," Neville said. "I desired to come out and do my best and make a sacrifice, and that's what I did."

Merritt and twice world champion Wariner have dominated the 400m this year and clocked 11 of the fastest times in the world before the Olympics. But the season was not straightforward for the 24-year-old Wariner, who had been virtually unchallenged over the past four years.

His troubles began in January when he parted with long-time coach Clyde Hart over a pay dispute and continued with unexpected losses to Merritt in key races, including the U.S. Olympic trials.

Wariner was still considered the favorite coming into the Olympics after a strong European racing campaign but Merritt was always a threat. U.S. runners have been defeated in just one Olympic 400m final over the past half century, when Cuba's Alberto Juantorena completed his unprecedented 400m-800m double in 1976.

Thursday's podium sweep was some consolation for U.S. sprinters after Jamaica took all four gold medals.



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