Gatlin-to-Miller handoff costly


ATHENS, Greece -- Stymied by a sloppy handoff in the middle
of the race, the United States lost to Great Britain by a hundredth
of a second Saturday night in the 400-meter relay -- a race the
American men usually dominate.

U.S. anchor Maurice Greene took the baton in second place and
made up ground on Britain's Mark Lewis-Francis, but could not catch
him. The two leaned at the finish but Lewis-Francis' chest cleared
the line a hair ahead of Greene's.

"I almost caught him in the end, but almost isn't good enough.
I hope we pleased the fans and I hope we didn't let anybody down.
If we did, I apologize," Greene said.

"I saw people in front of me. I said, `Go get 'em.' At the very
end, I thought maybe I got him. But I guess I didn't. It was a
tough race."

The British won in 38.07 seconds, and the Americans won silver
in 38.08 -- after saying for days they would threaten the world
record of 37.40. Nigeria took bronze.

The U.S. relay was undermined by a poor handoff from its second
runner, 100-meter gold medalist Justin Gatlin, to Coby Miller. That
cost precious hundredths of seconds, and left Greene with too much
territory to make up.

"I stepped on (Coby's) foot and ripped a hole in his shoe.
Thank God I didn't cut him," Gatlin said. "I think he did a good
job making up ground, especially with a ripped shoe."

The United States has won the relay 15 of the 20 times it has
been run, not including the boycotted 1980 Moscow Games. But the
Americans have failed to win the relay in three of the last five

"I wasn't worried about Maurice Greene, I knew I had it as soon
as I got the baton," Lewis-Francis said. "We have proved everyone
wrong today. Everyone ran the race of their life."