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September 27, 2000
Gail Devers crashes out of 100m hurdlesThe Rediff Team
The afternoon session of track and field, on day 12 of the Games, got off to a dramatic start when hot favourite Gail Devers of the USA failed to complete the course in the first semifinal of the women's 100m hurdles.
Devers, running in lane 5, seemed to have no problems going over the first four hurdles and then, inexplicably, she pulled up just in front of the fifth, ending up tangled inside the hurdle. While the rest of the field completed the course, Devers extricated herself and slowly walked off the course -- and out of a competition she was expected to win comfortably.
For the record, France's Nicole Ramalalanrina touched home first, in a time of 12.77. Also qualifying were Melissa Morrison of the US, Linda Ferga of France and Delloreen Ennis-London of Jamaica.
The story of the day, though, was Devers. Till today, she was best known for her dramatic fall in the 100-meter hurdles final at the 1992 Games. Favored to win, she clipped the final hurdle after being in control till then, fell to her knees and ended up fifth. Then came the Atlanta Games and again, Devers as defending champion surprisingly failed to earn a medal, placing fourth. In Sydney, she failed to qualify for the sprints, and decided to concentrate on the hurdles.
"This is my year in the hurdles," the 33-year-old said after qualifying for the US team in the event. "This is meant to be."
Amazingly, she has had remarkable success in the 100m, both sprint and hurdles, otherwise. She captured back to back golds in the sprint in Barcelona and Atlanta, becoming only the second woman in the world to repeat over the short sprint. In the 1993 Worlds, she won both the sprint and the hurdles, then repeated as hurdles world champion in the 1995 Worlds.
In the US team trials, she clocked 12.33 in the hurdles, the fastest time recorded in the event in the past eight years.
Devers belonged to that generation of American athletes -- the names of Florence Griffith Joyner and Jackie Joyner Kersee coming immediately to mind in this regard -- who set idiosyncratic styles. In Devers' case, it was the fingernails, which she grew as long as 4 1/4". Painted in flashy colours, they were taped back at race time, in order to avoid injury to fellow runners in the relays. She finally cut them off in 1998 -- "I had to use pliers," she remarked later.
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