Russian Federation files an unsuccessful protest

Updated: August 24, 2004, 8:30 PM ET
Associated Press

ATHENS, Greece -- Joanna Hayes screamed as she crossed the finish line of the 100-meter hurdles in Olympic-record time. About 90 meters behind her, world champion Perdita Felicien lay flat on the ground, crying in disbelief.

Joanna Hayes
Joanna Hayes won the hurdles in an Olympic-record 12.37 seconds.
Felicien stepped on the first hurdle, tumbling to the ground and taking Irina Shevchenko of Russia with her. All Felicien could do was watch Hayes win in 12.37 seconds, breaking the Olympic record of 12.38 set by Bulgaria's Yordanka Donkova 16 years ago.

After the race, Felicien still couldn't believe what happened.

"I don't think this is going to sink in," said Felicien, a Canadian who attended the University of Illinois. "I think it's going to take four years for it to sink in. I'm devastated. I was ready to run that race. I was ready to do this."

Olena Krasovska of Ukraine won silver in 12.45 and Melissa Morrison of the United States finished in 12.56 to win her second straight Olympic bronze in the event.

After the victory, Hayes fell to the track before running to the stands to accept congratulations and wrapping herself in the American flag.

"Going in, I felt I was going to run 12.37. I just did what I told myself I was going to do," Hayes said. "I worked hard to be at this point, and any given day I may lose or win a race. I'm not saying I can't be beaten, but tonight I'm the best hurdler in the world."

Before the race, it was Felicien who was ranked No. 1 in the world. She came into the race as the favorite after 37-year-old Gail Devers failed to make it out of her opening heat because of a strained left calf. During the semifinals Monday, Hayes dedicated the race to her teammate.

Felicien walked on the track confident. She walked off in disgust, then watched with a grimace as Hayes and Morrison took their victory lap.

"The first hurdle came up and I reached for it way too much," she said, "... and before I knew it I was on the ground and I could not believe it."

The Russian Federation filed an unsuccessful protest, pushing the medal ceremony back to Wednesday. Track officials debated for about two hours before rejecting the Russians' arguments. Shevchenko left the track without commenting.

"I feel for her," Hayes said. "I know in the hurdles, though, so many things can happen. It gets dangerous."

While officials discussed the protest, Hayes and Morrison were told there was a chance they'd have to run the race again Thursday. Although she was worried, Hayes tried to keep her spirits up.

"What's life without a little controversy?" she said.

Morrison had a few problems of her own in the race. She hit two hurdles, and that nearly forced her to turn sideways.

"For me to come in third place after hitting two hurdles, I'm happy about that," Morrison said. "I got a medal to match my medal from Sydney."

Hayes, a former long jumper, narrowly missed a spot on the 2000 Olympic team, finishing fourth in the 400 hurdles and fifth in the 100 hurdles. She finished second at the trials this year.

She became the second American to win the event since it went to 100 meters in 1972. That's one more medal than Devers, who has never won an Olympic medal in the event despite being considered one of the greatest hurdlers of all time.

"This is my vision to win the Olympic medal and break the record," Hayes said. "I wanted to win this."


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press

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