Relay gives Bolt third gold of worlds

Updated: August 22, 2009, 10:04 PM ET
Associated Press

BERLIN -- For once, Usain Bolt ran in a final that didn't produce a world record.

That, in itself, is almost a record.

Bolt won his third gold of the world championships Saturday, getting a little help from his Jamaican friends in the 400-meter relay.

With the Americans sitting out -- disqualified the day before -- the sprinters from the Caribbean island easily pulled away from the field. All that was left to be decided once Bolt handed off the baton to anchor leg Asafa Powell was whether another world mark would tumble.

Not this day. Instead, the team's time of 37.31 seconds was only the second-fastest in history. Their mark of 37.10 from Beijing remains -- for now.

There was only a muted celebration from the usually upbeat Bolt.

Not happy?

[+] EnlargeUsain Bolt
AP Photo/Matt DunhamWith Asafa Powell taking the baton Saturday from Usain Bolt for the anchor leg, Jamaica won the 400-meter relay in 37.31 seconds.

"What? I was happy," said Bolt, who obliterated the world records in the 100 and 200 earlier in the week, and set three in Beijing last year. "I was just tired."

Meanwhile, the Americans are growing weary of all the mishaps with the baton.

With botched exchanges, running out of the zone and now a pulled hamstring, the 400 relay teams just can't seem to get the stick around the track.

On a night when the Jamaicans won both 400 relays, the Americans were looking at ways to revamp their relay program.

After the men were disqualified the night before for passing the baton out of the designated area, the women got knocked out when Muna Lee pulled up with a hamstring injury shortly after taking an awkward pass from Alexandria Anderson.

Lee, who was running for the injured Marshevet Hooker, instantly fell down on the track and had to be carried off.

"Every team has their ups and downs," Anderson said.

Lately, it's been more downs. Just as in Beijing, both 400 relay teams go home empty handed.

In the wake of yet another major championship without 400 relay gold, Benita Fitzgerald Mosley, the chief of sport performance for USATF, has vowed changes.

But that's been tried before.

"There's certainly a cloud of judgment around them about this relay, the expectation and stress. You cannot be a human being in this situation and not feel it," she said. "We're going to bring together a meeting of the minds, the best and brightest sports scientists, coaches and athletes and administrators, to craft a high-performance plan to guide our path and our steps as we try to maximize our performance."

I just want to party. I haven't celebrated all week.

-- Usain Bolt

The team may also need to include a psychologist. The baton blues have crept inside their heads.

"Everything seemed to be on track," Lauryn Williams said. "We practiced well, we had great chemistry, things have gone wonderfully."

Then woefully.

For Williams, this was another major meet where something went wrong. She's also been involved in two faulty Olympic exchanges.

In 2004, she misconnected with Marion Jones in the final and the Americans were disqualified for making the exchange outside the 20-meter handoff zone.

Last year in Beijing, Torri Edwards and Williams bobbled the last exchange.

But Williams, moved to the lead spot, ran flawlessly, giving the baton to Anderson. She didn't even see what happened next.

"I was thinking we were on Easy Street," Williams said.

There are no easy streets for the U.S. in this event.

The inability to get the baton around spoiled an otherwise fine day for the Americans. Both 1,600 relay teams easily advanced to the finals -- no fumbles on exchanges -- and Dwight Phillips won a third world championship gold medal in the long jump.

[+] EnlargeDwight Phillips
AP Photo/Michael ProbstDwight Phillips jumped 28 feet, 1/4 inch Saturday in his second try to win at Berlin's Olympic Stadium.

This one was especially pleasing for Phillips, who was all but written off after not making the Olympic team last summer.

On Saturday, he jumped 28 feet, 1/4 inch on his second attempt to win.

"They had pretty much written my obituary," Phillips said. "But today I was able to rise to the top and I'm just happy with that."

He received his gold medal from Marlene Hemphill Dortch, the granddaughter of Jesse Owens. It was inside the Olympic Stadium, with Adolf Hitler looking on, that Luz Long, the German long jumper, famously befriended Owens.

Taking advice from Long, Owens won gold, while Long settled for silver.

The significance of the moment wasn't lost on Phillips.

"It was just unbelievable knowing that I was in the same place that such a historical person, that a great icon for humanity competed at," Phillips said. "When I left my room this morning, I didn't want to disappoint anybody. I wanted to bring the USA gold back and I'm happy I did."

In other finals Saturday:

• Abel Kirui of Kenya won the men's marathon, crossing the line in 2 hours, 6 minutes, 54 seconds to set a world championships record.

• Australia's Steve Hooker overcame a right leg injury to win the pole vault, taking only two attempts to clear 19 feet, 4 1/4 inches.

• Poland's Anita Wlodarczyk set a world record of 255 feet, 9 inches to win the hammer throw.

• Kenya's Vivian Cheruiyot captured the 5,000.

With the American women's 400 relay team out of the picture, the Jamaicans breezed to gold, holding off the Bahamas. Given their rivalry, the Jamaicans would've preferred to see the U.S. squad in the finals.

"It's sad for them," Jamaica's Aleen Bailey said. "We missed them. Hopefully next time they'll be there with us."

The Jamaican men had little trouble in the relay with no U.S. around. And the squad that filed the protest against the Americans -- Britain -- ended up with the bronze medal, while Trinidad and Tobago took silver.

After watching Powell -- groin injury and all -- power through the finish line, Bolt took a quick glance at the clock and then sat down in the middle of his lane.

He stretched for a bit, then removed his orange sneakers. He carried them in his hands as he sauntered over to join his buddies at the finish.

It was the slowest he's moved all week.

He's tired. He's drained.

Now, all the newly turned 23-year-old Jamaican wants to do is unwind.

"I just want to party," Bolt said. "I haven't celebrated all week."


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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