Allen Johnson hurdles into spotlight, making his 1st medal a gold American's 12.95 breaks Olympic record despite his hitting most hurdles

Atlanta Olympics

July 30, 1996|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

ATLANTA -- American Allen Johnson broke the Olympic record in the 110-meter hurdles last night, running 12.95 seconds to win the gold medal and finishing just ahead of fellow American Mark Crear.

Johnson, who established himself as the premier athlete in the 110-meter event with a victory at the 1995 world championships, knocked down almost every hurdle, but he got over the one that counted -- winning his first Olympic medal.

"I don't know if I'd call it perfect, but it's a good continuation of my short career," said Johnson, who was born in Washington and grew up in Northern Virginia. "Hopefully, there will be more. But I'm the Olympic champion and that's what I was looking for."

Crear ran the race with a broken arm. He fractured the radius bone in his left arm falling over a hurdle three weeks ago, but decided to forgo a cast to continue his Olympic quest. His performance might have been even more remarkable because he finished ahead of Germany's Florian Schwarthoff, who had won eight straight races coming into the Olympics.

"Allen had the best nerves today and he ran the best race," Schwarthoff said through an interpreter. "He was the world champion last year and he has done it again this year."

Though the evening was dominated by the exploits of Carl Lewis, who won his ninth career gold medal, and Michael Johnson, who won the gold in the 400 meters, there were a number of impressive performances.

Russia's Svetlana Masterkova upset pre-race favorites Maria Mutola of Mozambique and Ana Fidelia Quirot of Cuba to win the gold medal in the women's 800-meter final.

Masterkova, who won a bronze medal at the world indoor championships in Stockholm in the winter, came to the Olympics unbeaten outdoors this season.

She moved into a clear lead with 70 meters to run and had no trouble taking the gold in 1 minute, 57.73 seconds.

That Quirot ran at all is admirable. That she won a silver medal, finishing in 1: 58.11, is extraordinary.

The 800-meter world champion from Cuba was severely burned in a house fire in January 1993. Her kerosene stove caught on fire, and within a few seconds, her entire upper body was engulfed in flames. She lost her 7-month-old unborn daughter, and 38 percent of her body was covered with third-degree burns.

Mutola overtook Britain's Kelly Holmes in the final 15 meters to take the bronze in 1: 58.71.

Masterkova's victory was the first by a Russian or Soviet woman since 1976 when Tatiana Kazankina won the gold in Montreal, a race in which Masterkova's coach, Svetlana Styrkina, finished fifth.

Masterkova and her compatriot, Yelena Afanasyeva, controlled the race for the first lap, which they completed in 58.43 seconds. Quirot and Mutola were third and fourth at the bell.

Holmes moved up to challenge the leaders on the top bend and briefly ran shoulder to shoulder with Masterkova before the Russian pulled away.

France's Marie-Jose Perec set an Olympic record in the women's 400 meters, finishing in 48.25 to defeat Australia's Cathy Freeman (48.63) and Falilat Ogunkoya of Nigeria (49.10).

American Jearl Miles finished fifth in 49.55 in the first race in history in which six women ran under 50 seconds.

Germany's Ilke Wyludda won the gold medal in the women's discus with a throw of 69.66 meters.

Russia's Natalya Sadova won the silver and Belarus' Elya Zvereva earned the bronze.

Gail Devers, who will try to add the 100-meter hurdles title to her gold medal in the 100 meters, advanced easily through the first two rounds of the hurdles.

Ludmilla Enquist, the former Russian world champion now competing for Sweden, had the fastest qualifying time (12.47 seconds) of the 16 women who advanced to the semifinals.

Enquist, 32, was banned for four years in February 1993 for a failed drug test, but was reinstated in December.

John Godina, silver medalist in the shot put, was not as fortunate in the discus -- failing to advance beyond last night's qualifying round. The other two Americans, Anthony Washington and Adam Setliff, reached tomorrow's discus final.

Yelena Nikolayeva of Russia won the women's 10-kilometer walk.

Pub Date: 7/30/96

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