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.