MOSCOW — In perhaps the most dominant performance to date at the 2013 IAAF World Championships, LaShawn Merritt crushed the field in the men’s 400 meters to lead a four-medal night for a surging Team USA Tuesday at Luzhniki Stadium. Nick Symmonds, Jenn Suhr and Tony McQuay all contributed silver medals to bring Team USA’s medal total to 10 (4 gold, 5 silver, 1 bronze).
“I’ve always been around, I’ve always worked hard, even last season I had an undefeated year up until the Olympic Games. Just unfortunately I got hurt, I was ready to go last year. So I went and broke my body down to train hard and have a great season this year. I said in the semifinal that this wasn’t a two-man race. Eight men were going to line up who were hungry to represent their country and their sponsor, and I was starving. Not only was I starving for a great performance, I was also starving like I didn’t eat a lot today, so I was really starving. I wanted to go out and put a great race together, I was ready mentally and physically to put a 43 together, and that’s what I did and that’s what I took. Life is full of ups and downs. I’m the type of guy who would say, things happen. You always have to move forward. I never stopped training, I never stopped being confident, I always kept God first, and I always let my hard work be my confidence. I had a brother who was older than me who passed before it was his time to go, so I said, hey, life is full of ups and downs and you have to continue to move forward. Just being here and being able to train and be confident. If I step out and the lights feel like home, it was just time to get work done.”
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Running in lane 6, Merritt (Norfolk, Va.) went out briskly with Olympic champion Kirani James of Grenada just inside him in lane 5 and American McQuay (Gainesville, Fla.) in lane 4. James followed Merritt’s fast start, with McQuay in tow. James looked to close the gap on Merritt slightly at the 200m mark, but faded on the turn as the strength of Merritt took over. The 2008 Olympic gold medalist and 2009 world champion charged down the homestretch, winning in 43.74 seconds – a personal best and .01 faster than his previous best of 43.75 from his gold-medal run in Beijing. McQuay was second in a personal-best 44.40, and Luguelin Santos of the Dominican Republic was third in was 44.52. James faded to seventh in 44.99. It marked a strong comeback for Team USA, going 1-2 in Moscow just one year after having no finalists at the Olympic Games.
Symmonds (Springfield, Ore.) gave the U.S. men their best-ever finish in the men’s 800m, running an aggressive and gutsy race to take the silver and give the U.S. their first 800 medal since 1997. Compatriot Duane Solomon (Los Angeles, Calif.) led the pack through the first lap at 50.28, with Symmonds on his shoulder – an atypical position for the historically late-charging Oregonian. As Solomon faded in the homestretch, Symmonds surged and was in the lead coming home. He was overtaken in the final meters by Mohammed Aman of Ethiopia, with Aman finishing in 1:43.31 to Symmonds’ season-best time of 1:43.55. Ayanleh Souleiman of Djibouti was third in 1:43.75, with Solomon sixth in 1:44.42.
Women’s vault battle
Suhr (Churchill, N.Y.) cleared her opening height of 4.55m/14-11 on her first try, and then scaled 4.75m/15-7 on the first attempt to take sole possession of first place. When Isinbayeva cleared 4.82m/15-9.75 on her second attempt, Suhr had to do the same to retake the lead while Silva cleared on her last attempt. At 4.89m/16-0.5, Isinbaeva cleared her first attempt and Suhr and Silva failed to clear, claiming silver and bronze, respectively.
In the women’s heptathlon, Sharon Day (Manhattan, Kan.) clipped more than two seconds off her personal best in the 800m with a 2:08.94 that pushed her up to sixth overall with 6407 points, her best finish in three trips to the World Championships. Erica Bougard (Byhalia, Miss.) ran 2:13.72 and ended 24th with 5829, and Bettie Wade (Grand Rapids, Mich.) was 27th with 5768 points after running the 800m in 2:20.87. Ganna Melnichenko of the Ukraine captured gold with 6584 points while Brianne Theisen Eaton of Canada claimed silver with a score of 6530
Americans roll into finals
All eyes were on the women’s 1500m semifinals, which saw teenager Mary Cain (Bronxville, N.Y.) become the youngest finalist ever in the event, placing fourth in the first semi in 4:05.21 to automatically advance to Thursday’s final. Reigning world champion Jenny Simpson (Boulder, Colo.), was third at 4:05.79 in semifinal two to also advance. Sarah Brown (Knoxville, Tenn.), finished 10th in that heat at 4:12.16 and did not advance.
Reigning world champion Lashinda Demus (Los Angeles, Calif.) and U.S. champion Dalilah Muhammad (Bayside, N.Y.) both finished second in their semifinals of the 400m hurdles to advance automatically to the final on Thursday. Muhammad clocked 54.08 in the first semifinal, while Demus finished at 54.22 in the second semi. Christine Spence was eighth in the first section at 58.35 and did not advance.
In the men’s 400m hurdle semifinals, Olympic silver medalist Michael Tinsley (Round Rock, Texas) won his semifinal in 48.31 to automatically advance to Thursday’s final. Kerron Clement (Gainesville, Fla.), the 2007 and 2009 world champion, moved on to the final after finishing third in the third heat, claiming one of the time qualifier spots with his 48.21. Bershawn Jackson (Raleigh, N.C.) fell at hurdle two in the first semifinal; just after clearing the barrier he appeared to injure himself. Jackson fought an injury after tweaking his right hamstring in practice earlier this week.
Team USA still dominates the team scoring with 127 points, 57 ahead of second place Russia.
For more information on Team USA at the IAAF World Championships, visit www.USATF.org. Live results and startlists are available at www.IAAF.org.