DAEGU, South Korea – It was a night made for milestones for Team USA at the 13th IAAF World Outdoor Track and Field Championships Thursday night.
During a 32-minute span, LaShinda Demus set an American Record in the women’s 400m hurdles, Jesse Williams ended a 20-year drought by Team USA in the high jump by winning gold, and Jenny Simpson won the first American gold medal in the women’s 1,500m since 1983.
Williams, the world leader at 2.37m/7-9.5, became the first American to medal in the high jump since Charles Austin and teammate Hollis Conway collected gold and bronze medals at the 1991 World Championships in Tokyo.
The momentum for Team USA then shifted from the infield to the oval.
Less than 10 minutes after Team USA teammate Simpson had scored a surprise victory in the women’s 1,500m, Demus earned a gold medal in the women’s 400m. It was redemption for Demus after settling for silver medals at the 2005 and 2009 World Championships.
If that wasn’t enough, Team USA had four athletes advance through the semifinal round of qualifying, including three-time defending World champion Allyson Felix and recently crowned 100m champ Carmelita Jeter in the women’s 200m.
Maybe Thursday morning’s session was an indication of things to come for Team USA after advancing a whopping 15 athletes into the next round of competition.
Team USA improved its medal count to 12, including seven gold, four silver and one bronze. The women have accumulated four gold medals, marking the third straight World Championship that Team USA has achieved that feat.
Women’s 400m Hurdle Final
Lashinda Demus (Palmdale, Calif.) not only captured a gold medal but set an American record in the process with a 52.47 clocking, bettering Kim Batten’s previous American mark of 52.61 set in Goteborg, Sweden in 1995 – the last time Team USA won the world championship in that event. Running out of lane three, Demus looked in control the entire race, accelerating past defending champion Melaine Walker of Jamaica who was timed in 52.73. It was the top performance of the already successful Demus’ career. A former world junior champion and world junior record holder, Demus had previously won World Outdoor silver in 2005 and 2009; she missed 2007 on maternity leave, pregnant with twin boys.
Women’s 1500m Final
In the women’s 1500m final, Jenny Simpson (Colorado Springs, Colo.) started in the middle of pack for the first 400m then faded to the back. At the bell Simpson found herself in seventh place and began working her way back closer to the leaders. Simpson started to surge ahead with 200m to go. Coming down the homestretch and running in lane two, she moved into third, then second and ultimately into first, as she distanced herself by two-tenths of a second over runner-up Hannah England of Great Britain in a winning time of 4:05.40. Simpson first appeared shocked, then overjoyed as she realized she won the world championship title, becoming just the second American to win the title since Mary Decker in 1983.
Morgan Uceny (Mammoth Lakes, Calif.) and Kenya’s Hellen Obiri crashed to the track as they came around the top bend for the second last time. Both got up gamely to finish, with Uceny clocking 4:19.71 to place tenth.
Men’s High Jump
World leader Jesse Williams (Eugene, Ore.) sailed through the first five increases without a single miss between 2.20m/7-2.5 and 2.35/7-8.5 allowing him to always hold or share the lead. Williams had to wait for Russia’s Aleksey Dmitrik to miss all three attempts at 2.37m to earn the gold medal.
Williams’ victory broke a sequence of Russian championship successes which has brought the Olympic (Andrey Silnov), World (Yaroslav Rybakov), World Indoor (Ivan Ukhov) and European championship (Aleksandr Shustov) title in the past three years.
Men’s 400m Hurdle Final
Team USA had its streak of winning gold medals in three consecutive World Championships come to an end. Two-time World Championship medalist Bershawn Jackson (Raleigh, N.C.), running in lane five, placed sixth in 49.24 seconds, while two-time Olympic gold medalist Angelo Taylor (Decatur, Ga.), operating in lane one, badly struck the final hurdle setting for seventh in 49.31 Great Britain’s David Greene came on strong to win the race in 48.26 which was the slowest time in the finals in championship history. Jackson made the quickest start only to lose momentum by clattering the hurdle. He also struck the second and third hurdles.
Women’s 200m Semifinals
All three American women advanced to the finals of the 200m with ease. Carmelita Jeter (Gardena, Calif.) looked smooth in the first heat and cruised to the win with meters to spare. Jeter’s time of 22.47 was the second fastest of the day.
In the second heat Shalonda Solomon (Orlando, Fla.) continued the winning ways, and bettered Jeter’s time by one-hundredth of a second to win in 22.46 and turned in the fastest time of the evening. In the third heat Allyson Felix (Santa Clarita, Calif.) made up ground on Jamaica’s Veronica Campbell-Brown after coming off the curve several meters behind; however, she was unable to close the gap and finished second in 22.67.
Men’s 1500m Semifinals
Matt Centrowitz (Arnold, Md.) led the first 600m of his 1500m semifinal heat, but then faded to the back of the pack. However, if anyone thought he had simply gone out too hard, they were wrong. At 1,000m, Centrowitz began a drive back toward the front of the pack. With 400m to go, he slipped through a small gap and passed on the inside; taking a lead he would not relinquish and winning his heat in a time of 3:46.66.
In the second heat, Leo Manzano (Austin, Texas) started conservatively in the back of the pack and began to move up during the last lap. With 40 meters to go Manzano was suddenly forced to let up his pace due to a left hamstring issue. He faded in the end to cross the finish line in 3:47.98 and miss advancing to the final.
Men’s Javelin Throw Qualification
Mike Hazle (Chula Vista, Calif.) did not start in the men’s javelin due to a right elbow injury suffered in warmups.
Team USA Medals
Lashinda Demus (Palmdale, Calif.), W400H, 52.47AR, 9/1
Jenny Simpson (Colorado Springs, Colo.), W1500, 4:05.40, 9/1
Jesse Williams (Eugene, Ore.), MHJ, 2.35m/7-8.5, 9/1
Carmelita Jeter (Gardena, Calif.), W100, 10.90, 8/29
Jason Richardson (Inglewood, Calif.), M110H, 13.16, 8/29
Trey Hardee (Austin, Texas), Decathlon, 8607, 8/28
Brittney Reese (Gulfport, Miss.), WLJ, 6.82m/22-4.5, 8/28
Lashawn Merritt (Suffolk, Va.), M400, 44.63, 8/30
Allyson Felix (Santa Clarita, Calif.), W400, 49.59PR, 8/29
Ashton Eaton (Eugene, Ore.), Decathlon, 8505, 8/28
Walter Dix (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.), M100, 10.08, 8/28
Jillian Camarena-Williams (Tucson, Ariz.), WSP, 20.02m/65-8.25, 8/29