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 Olympics.
"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."
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press
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