Merritt beats defending champion Wariner in 400 meters

Updated: August 21, 2008, 11:01 PM ET news services

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.

Cyphers: U.S. Saviors

When things are going bad for the U.S. track team (and they're going bad here in Beijing), it can always count on the 400 meters event to bring Americans to the top of the podium, Luke Cyphers writes. Story

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 heats.

Information from Reuters and The Associated Press was used in this report.