BARCELONA, Spain - The U.S. track team lost only one of four Olympic relays last night - the one anchored by former
Morgan State star Rochelle Stevens.
Sounds bad, but Stevens lost her slim lead to one of the world's top female 400-meter runners, the Unified Team's Olga Bryzgina.
Bryzgina passed Stevens coming off the final turn of the 1,600-meter relay, enabling the Unified Team to edge the United States in 3 minutes, 20.20 seconds. The U.S. team took the silver in 3:20.92. Great Britain won the bronze in 3:24.23.
The result was expected, but the effort seemed tame on a night when the United States set world records in the men's 400- and 1,600-meter relays, and also won the women's 400-meter event.
In truth, the women's 1,600-meter relay was decided even before Stevens received the baton. Jearl Miles blew a 10-meter lead on the third leg, and Stevens knew Bryzgina would be coming.
"I never could gauge how far back she was," Stevens said. "I knew if I slowed down, she'd pass me. I just wanted to hold on as long as I could."
It was an admirable goal, for Bryzgina won the 400 at the 1988 Olympics and finished second to France's Marie Jose Perec here.
Stevens was pleased to finish sixth in that race. Her personal best of 50.06 seconds is nearly two seconds slower than Bryzgina's 48.27.
Indeed, Stevens said she frequently watches videotapes of Bryzgina's races, and even tries to mimic her style. Of course, it's easier said than done.
"I'm a little disappointed with my finish - it's normally the best part of my race - but I'm glad to know she didn't blow me out," Stevens said.
Stevens, 25, said she will return home briefly to Memphis, Tenn., where a parade and several parties will be held in her honor. She will leave for the European track season on Sept. 6.
"I don't see myself being as focused," Stevens said, laughing. "I see myself enjoying the limelight, being the star of the moment."