Bolt, Americans stage quite a show at the worlds

September 5, 2011 - 9:35 PM
APTOPIX South Korea Athletics Worlds

Jamaica's Usain Bolt, third from left in front, races to the finish line to win the Men's 4x100 Relay final at the World Athletics Championships in Daegu, South Korea, Sunday, Sept. 4, 2011. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

DAEGU, South Korea (AP) — Once again, Usain Bolt showed that when he steps onto the track — and doesn't false start — no one can come close to beating the showboating Jamaican.

And once again, the Americans displayed the depth that makes them so difficult to overtake in the medal standings. They won 12 gold and 25 in all, some from the unlikeliest of sources.

Bolt was THE star of the world championships. Maybe less obvious, shrouded by the shadow of Bolt, was the show the Americans put on, one they wouldn't mind duplicating a year from now at the London Olympics.

"We are the No. 1 team in the world," said Sanya Richards-Ross, who won gold in the 1,600 relay after failing to defend her 400 title. "And we wanted to send that message again this year."

Now, the bigger question is this: Can these performances be replicated in London, when the setting is even grander and the stakes even greater?

For as good as the Americans were, they still didn't reach the lofty ambition of "Project 30," which was the number of medals former USA Track and Field CEO Doug Logan thought the team should aim for in 2012.

Everything would have to break just right to reach that total. There would have to be more surprises such as Christian Taylor winning gold in the triple jump and Jenny Barringer Simpson taking the 1,500-meter title, something an American hasn't done since Mary Decker Slaney nearly three decades ago.

Not only that, but the shot putters couldn't be shut out like they were in Daegu and the men's 400 relay needs to get the baton around the track.

It used to be the men's sprint relay was an automatic medal. These days, it's a struggle to even finish.

"You know," relays coach Jon Drummond said, "misfortune happens."

Instead, the team could only watch as Bolt powered through the finish line and lifted the Jamaicans to a world record of 37.04. That could be a familiar scene at the Olympics, when Bolt will be in prime form.

The only thing that might prevent the 6-foot-5 Jamaican from setting even more records next year in London is, well, himself.

By his own admission, he wasn't in record-breaking shape for the worlds. And by his own doing, he didn't get a chance to prove himself in the 100 final after he jumped the gun and was disqualified.

He certainly atoned by winning the 200 in 19.40 seconds — the fourth-fastest time ever — before the record-setting relay.

"I've been breaking world records so I don't think I need to change my ways," Bolt said. "I will keep doing what I'm doing."

The U.S. women sent a succinct message in their robust sprint rivalry with Jamaica: Game on.

With Carmelita Jeter's victory in the 100, what was once a one-sided affair has suddenly evened out. Not only did Jeter win, but she also held off Veronica Campbell-Brown on the anchor leg to help the U.S. to gold in the 400 relay.

"USA has been bringing it," Jamaican rival Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce said. "We're looking forward to 2012."

In light of what transpired at the worlds, Allyson Felix is going to give careful consideration to whether she will attempt the difficult 200-400 double in London.

Sure, she captured silver in the 400, but it also left her fatigued for her signature event, the 200. Felix didn't have her customary surge at the end and failed in her bid to win the 200 world title for a fourth straight time, settling for bronze.

She did look strong in both the 1,600 and 400 relays, winning both to give her eight gold medals over her last four championships.

"I'm motivated for next year," Felix said. "This was all about a learning experience and I definitely learned a lot."

Other highlights at the worlds for the U.S. included:

— Trey Hardee and Ashton Eaton going 1-2 in the decathlon.

— A sensational showing in the jumping events as the U.S. squad won the high jump (Jesse Williams), triple jump (Taylor), long jump (Dwight Phillips) and women's long jump (Brittney Reese).

— Jason Richardson crashing the party in a 110-meter hurdle race that featured the three fastest hurdlers ever. He was bumped up from silver to gold after Dayron Robles of Cuba was disqualified for making contact with China's Liu Xiang.

— Lashinda Demus claiming the 400 hurdles title in an American record time of 52.47 seconds.

— Walter Dix winning silver in the 100 and 200.

— Jillian Camarena-Williams taking bronze for the first medal ever in women's shot put.

— LaShawn Merritt lifting the 1,600 relay team to a gold with a strong final leg.

"It sets us up nicely going into London — 25 medals is pretty darn good," said Vin Lananna, the men's coach at the world championships.

But still just short of reaching the "Project 30" standards. Logan may be gone, but the spirit of his ambitious endeavor remains a goal.

"I like our chances in London," Logan said in an email. "I think the keys are to get several key competitors healthy, be able to 'manage' the competition schedule in Europe next summer (as the Russians did this year), and to continue our improvement in the technical events. Bravo USA!"

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AP National Writer Eddie Pells in New York contributed to this report.