BEIJING -- American LaShawn Merritt
obliterated the field including defending champion Jeremy
Wariner to win the Olympic men's 400-meter title on Thursday
by the widest margin since 1896.
Merritt sealed a seventh straight gold in the event for the
United States, starting relatively slowly before blasting down the final
straight to cross the line in a personal best of 43.75 seconds.
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. medal sweep.
Merritt and two-time world champion Wariner have dominated the
400 meters this year and clocked 11 of the fastest times in the world
before the Olympics.
Merritt already beat Wariner twice this year, including at
the U.S. Olympic trials, but Wariner was still considered
the favorite after a superb European campaign in July.
"I didn't have anything left," Wariner said. "I don't know what to say. I ran the best I could."
Wariner joins a long list of 2007 world champions from the United States who failed to win gold in Beijing.
Allyson Felix (200), Tyson Gay (100, 200), Bernard Lagat (1,500), Brad Walker (pole vault) and Reese Hoffa (shot put) are the others who failed to win gold in their events this year. Of that list, only Felix got any kind of medal. Lolo Jones and Sanya Richards were other American favorites who came up short.
U.S. runners have lost just once in the Olympic 400 meters over
the past half century, when Cuba's Alberto Juantorena completed
his unprecedented 400m-800m double in 1976.
The podium sweep came as some consolation for the U.S.
after Jamaica took all four golds in the 100-meter and 200-meter sprints
and both U.S. 4x100 relay squads dropped their batons in the
Information from Reuters and The Associated Press was used in this report.