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U.S. hurdlers sweep medals in 400 meters

| Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2008

BEIJING - Only one hurdler has run 400 meters as fast as Kerron Clement. But Clement happened to be chasing him Monday night.

Clement was gaining on Angelo Taylor at the Olympic Games before he stutter-stepped at the final hurdle. That effectively ended any chance of overtaking Taylor, who led a U.S. medal sweep of the 400-meter hurdles.

"The silver medal is great to me," Clement said.

Taylor finished in 47.25 seconds. Clement and Bershawn Jackson - world champions in 2007 and 2005, respectively - took silver and bronze in 47.98 and 48.06.

"We are the best three guys in the world, and we proved that today," Clement said.

Clement, 22, a former University of Florida hurdler, will have more chances. He was a world junior champion in the 400 hurdles in 2004 and broke Michael Johnson's world indoor record for 400 meters at age 19 in 2005.

It was obvious he is an extraordinary talent.

So is Taylor.

Taylor, at 21, won an Olympic gold medal in the 400 hurdles in 2000. Stress fractures in his shin derailed him in 2004, but now he's an Olympic champion again.

Only Edwin Moses, whose gold medals came in 1976 and 1984, has won this event eight years apart.

"He's a legend. He really made the 400 hurdles popular," Taylor said. "I just feel so honored to be mentioned in the same category with Edwin Moses."

The only other two-time champion in the 400 hurdles is Glenn Davis (1956 and 1960).

The sweep helped salvage the first half of the week for a U.S. track and field that endured a series of failures and calamities. The Americans came into Monday with four medals and no golds, and now they have nine medals and two golds.

"I wasn't really focusing on that," Clement said of the team's struggles. "I was focusing on myself and the hurdles. We said we were going to get 1-2-3, and it happened that way."

The sweep was the fifth by the United States in the event, but first since 1960. The others were in 1904, 1920 and 1956.

Elsewhere on the track, former Florida State sprinters Walter Dix and Brian Dzingai qualified for Tuesday's semifinals of the 200 meters. The final is Wednesday night.

The 27-year-old Dzingai - at 5-6, the Zimbabwean sprinter is nearly a foot shorter than Jamaica's Usain Bolt - surprisingly ran the fastest times of the first two rounds.

"People do say dynamite comes in small packages," Dzingai said.

He clocked 20.23 in a quarterfinal after a morning heat in 20.25. Dix was third fastest in the quarterfinals at 20.27 after a heat in 20.77.

Bolt has already won the 100 with a world record of 9.69. Dix took the bronze medal.

Dix said is tired from running the rounds but that this timetable is no worse than that of the U.S. trials.

"When you go up against the U.S. trials, you go up against the best competition, by far," he said.

When asked about Bolt, Dix predictably replied anyone can be beaten. Dzingai was more emphatic.

"Naturally, Bolt is the man to beat. But I'm telling you, there is nobody out there who is giving him the gold as of yet," Dzingai said.

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