American Sanya Richards dances to title in 400, Bolt heads to semifinals in 200By Pat Graham, AP
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Richards cruises in 400, Bolt on to semis in 200
BERLIN — Sanya Richards dominated a little bit like Usain Bolt. Then she danced a little like him, too.
A big occasion called for the “Dallas Boogie,” a little jig Richards came up with and showed off after winning the 400 meters Tuesday at the world championships.
The debut of the dance was the punctuation on a night that’s been a long time in the making. With one trip around the track, Richards showed she can win on the brightest stage. She now has that elusive first major title in her signature event to prove it.
“I’m overwhelmed and excited to be finally standing on top of the podium,” Richards said. “It’s the best feeling in the world.”
Adding to the Americans’ solid day on the track, Kerron Clement defended his title in the 400 hurdles (even avoiding a fallen hurdle in a neighboring lane) while Bershawn Jackson grabbed the bronze despite a nagging hamstring injury.
“This was a great experience,” Clement said.
Running with confidence and conviction, Richards overwhelmed the field, finishing in 49 seconds. She even held off a Jamaican — Shericka Williams — for the win, something that has been difficult for the Americans to do.
Richards’ top rival, Olympic champion Christine Ohuruogu of Britain, was a distant fifth.
“I just couldn’t match that today,” Ohuruogu said. “Sanya Richards ran a splendid race … It was a brilliant time. I think she wanted it a little bit more than the rest of us.”
Did she ever. All she has been hearing about was how she came up short in big races.
The label was gnawing at her.
At the Beijing Olympics last summer, Richards entered as the overwhelming favorite. But she faltered toward the finish when her hamstring tightened. She wound up third.
Another bitter loss.
This was setting up as the latest chapter. Richards is in the midst of another flare-up from Behcet’s syndrome, a rare disorder that causes chronic inflammation of blood vessels throughout the body.
The virus wrecked her season in 2007 when the ulcers inside her mouth and lesions up and down her legs were so bad that Richards couldn’t talk, eat or stretch to run. She entered the U.S. championships that year still struggling with the disease, and finished fourth in the 400.
That was then. She now has a better handle on her disease.
“It didn’t get in my mind or in my way,” Richards said. “I enjoyed every step around the track today.”
And then those dance moves afterward — step, step, shuffle. Step, step, shuffle.
Richards had planned to use a shimmy that Bolt recently taught her. But her confidence in it waned at the last second.
“Sorry, Usain, I didn’t do your dance this time,” said Richards, who currently resides in Austin, Texas.
With 100 meters to go, though, Richards did conjure up his performance, thinking of the Jamaican when he set the world record a few nights before.
“I told myself, ‘I’m going to channel Usain coming down that last 100,’” Richards said. “It was so incredible to watch him run. I didn’t do his dance, but I definitely tried to get some of his energy.”
Bolt seems to have energy to spare these days. He breezed through the first two rounds of the 200 on Tuesday, making it look easy.
He usually does.
Hardly pushed in the quarterfinals, Bolt just strolled along, looking around as he leisurely traveled toward the finish line.
“Just trying to get through the rounds,” said Bolt, who advanced to Wednesday’s semifinals. “I’m trying to do it round by round like last year. Then I’ll go to the finals and just execute.”
With Tyson Gay pulling out of the 200 because of a groin injury, Bolt’s top competitor might be Jamaican teammate Steve Mullings, who had the fastest quarterfinal time.
Americans Shawn Crawford and Wallace Spearmon might have something to say about it, as well.
Asked if he would attempt to top his world mark in the final on Thursday, Bolt played coy.
“I’ll be running hard,” he said.
Two-time world champion Michelle Perry tried to run hard in the 100 hurdles, but she was hampered by a recently torn ligament in her knee.
The American finished seventh in her heat, failing to advance. She is set to have surgery next week.
Olympic champion Dawn Harper and American teammate Damu Cherry easily advanced to the semifinals.
“My running was very smooth,” Harper said. “Lane 1, Heat 1, No. 1. How nice is that.”
The Americans had no trouble moving on in the men’s 400 meters. LaShawn Merritt and Jeremy Wariner each won their heat with businesslike performances.
“Clocked in this morning, went to work,” Merritt said. “About to clock out and get ready for a (semifinal heat) tomorrow.”
The two have developed quite a rivalry over the years. Merritt took Wariner’s Olympic title last summer in Beijing by holding him off at the finish.
Now, he is after Wariner’s world title.
“We bring the best out of each other,” Merritt said. “Every time we compete against each other we run our fastest times.”
This was a big night for Richards, but she has another one around the corner. She will marry New York Giants defensive back Aaron Ross in late February.
“I can’t wait to get to New York to start planning for actually the biggest day of my life,” Richards said.
Until then, this day wasn’t bad.
Tags: Ath-worlds, Athlete Health, Athlete Injuries, Berlin, Dance, Men's Track And Field, Track And Field, Usain bolt, Women's Sports, Women's Track And Field