It was a night of another Olympic disappointment for Gail Devers, a night of triumph for a little-known U.S. male hurdler and an easy night of work for Marion Jones.
And all around the track, there seemed to be the taint of drugs.
With an injured Devers suddenly reduced to the role of spectator, a hurdler who missed the last Olympics on a drug ban captured the one medal Devers truly wanted.
Olga Shishigina of Kazakstan won the 100-meter hurdles today in 12.65 seconds. Gloria Alozie of Nigeria won the silver and Melissa Morrison of the United States — wearing dark glasses at night — won the bronze.
Alozie’s fiance was killed when hit by a car in Sydney a few days before the games opened. He had been training with the Nigerian team before the Olympics.
American Angelo Taylor won gold in the men’s 400-meter hurdles and Germany’s Nils Schumann held off Wilson Kipketer at the finish line to win the 800 meters. In the women’s events, Russia’s Irina Privalova won the 400-meter hurdles and Ellina Zvereva of Belarus won the discus.
Jones Back in Action
It was a quick night of work for Marion Jones, who continued her quest for five gold medals by reaching the semifinals of the 200 and advancing to the long jump final on her first qualifying jump. It was a leap of 22 feet, 3 inches (6.78 meters).
Jones was back in the sanctuary of the track a day after defending her husband. Jones captured gold in the 100 meters last weekend but since then has been engulfed in controversy surrounding husband C.J. Hunter’s positive drug tests.
“This is where I love to be. I love to be out there in front of the fans, in front of the lights. It kind of gets my mind off everything,” she said. “There’s so much going on right now, which I’ll deal with when all the Sydney Games are done. But this is what I love to do, and it was a good day overall — probably the best.”
But Jones’ medal hunt now is imperiled by injuries to two of her teammates on the U.S. 400-meter relay squad. Devers and Inger Miller both have hamstring problems and are questionable for the relay.
Joining Jones in Thursday’s 200-meter semifinals were U.S. teammates Nanceen Perry and Torri Edwards, who replaced injured world champion Miller. Also advancing was 400-meter gold medalist Cathy Freeman.
Melinte Escorted Away
Shishigina missed the 1996 Atlanta Olympics while serving a two-year drug ban. She was suspended for four years in May 1996 for testing positive for stanozolol, the same steroid that cost Ben Johnson a gold medal at the 1988 Seoul Games. Her ban later was cut to two years.
That wasn’t the only drug news from the track today.
World record-holder and world champion Mihaela Melinte of Romania was escorted away by officials when she tried to compete in the women’s hammer throw, two days after Romanian officials were told she had failed a pre-games drug test.
It was the first time anyone could recall seeing an Olympic athlete removed from the field because of a drug test result.
Devers: ‘Is This a Jinx?’
Devers had been favored to win the hurdles, and finally win a medal that had eluded her for so long, but she suddenly stopped midway through her semifinal with a left hamstring tear and did not finish the race.
It was the latest chapter in the hard-luck Olympic saga of Devers, who just missed out on medals at the 1992 and 1996 games.
“I don’t think luck has anything to do with track and field. I think it’s skill,” she said. “I’d say my skills were not good enough to keep me going tonight. And that’s the end of the story.”
Devers has been one of the world’s best hurdlers for the past decade, but has never won a medal in an Olympic hurdles event. All three of her gold medals at the Barcelona and Atlanta games — including two 100-meter titles — came in sprints.
Devers made a heroic recovery from a serious illness just to compete in the 1992 Olympics.
She did not compete in 1989 and 1990 because of Graves Disease, a thyroid abnormality that caused her feet to swell so much she was within days of having them amputated.
Devers said she hurt her hamstring while winning a meet in Brussels on Aug. 25. She said she reinjured the hamstring while clearing the sixth hurdle in Monday’s second-round race.
“My aim was to make it to the final and give it my all until the leg falls off,” she said. “Is this a jinx? Is this ’92 all over again? No. I have the utmost faith and belief in God and my spirituality, and I know he had plans for me.”
Morceli Is Spiked, Stops
A few minutes after Dever’s disappointment, defending champion Nourredine Morceli of Algeria stopped on the final straight of a men’s 1,500-meter semifinal after he was spiked by another competitor.
Morceli, who was in the middle of a pack just behind the leaders, stopped immediately and looked down at his right leg. Then he walked across the finish line in disgust, spitting on the ground.
“Over the last 100 meters I lost my balance and rhythm, and everyone passed me. And there was nothing I could do,” he said, showing a large gash on his leg. “I am disappointed, but it happened to El Guerrouj in Atlanta, it just happened to Gail Devers.”
In 1996, Morceli won the Olympic medal after getting tangled up with Hicham El Guerrouj of Morocco on the final lap. El Guerrouj moved into Friday’s final by winning his semifinal heat in 3 minutes, 37.60 seconds.
Also advancing in the 1,500 was American Jason Pyrah. But Stanford teammates Gabe Jennings and Michael Stember failed to reach the final.
In the men’s 200, Americans Floyd Heard, Coby Miller and John Capel all advanced to the semifinals. So did Ato Boldon, who is favored in the race.
In the men’s hurdles, Taylor ran a personal-best time of 47.50 seconds but had to lean at the finish line to edge Hadi Souan Somayli of Saudi Arabia — who won his nation’s first Olympic medal. Llewellyn Herbert of South Africa won the bronze.
In the men’s 800, Schumann won in 1 minute, 45.08 seconds. Kipketer got the silver and Aissa Djabir Said-Guerni of Algeria won the bronze.
In the women’s 400-meter hurdles, Privalova won in 53.02 seconds. Deon Hemmings of Jamaica won the silver Nouzha Bidouane of Morocco the bronze.