Track’s Growth on Display in 400mH
by Devon Jeffreys
The 2012 Olympics have proven two things to Angelo Taylor: the game is changing and the world has caught up to the United States on the track.
Angelo and Javier Culson (left) fled out to the front, but it was a five-man race down the stretch (Getty Images).
In no event was that more evident than Angelo's signature one, the 400-meter hurdles. The 400mH is a race that Americans have long dominated. But as the field turned for home on Monday in the final, two Americans were joined in the front pack by hurdlers from the Dominican, Puerto Rico and Great Britain.
AT, the 2000 and 2008 Olympic gold medalist in the 400mH, got off to a great start in an attempt to defend his title. He was in the lead pack after the first 100m, moved toward the front at the halfway point and pulled ahead before 300 meters. He and Puerto Rico's Javier Culson were neck-and-neck entering the final turn, but over the last three hurdles Felix Sanchez of the Dominican Republic surged to the lead with Michael Tinsley of the United States close behind.
Angelo tried to stave off the run but lost steam in the final 100 meters and Great Britain's Dai Greene caught up as well. It ended up as one of the best 400-meter hurdles races ever and Angelo finished fifth with a time 48.25 seconds.
"I got out pretty good. I tried to get my rhythm. This race is all about momentum. I just broke my momentum," AT said. "This field is tough. It's the toughest 400m hurdles field I've seen."
Angelo catches his breath after the 400-meter hurdles final (Getty Images).
After the race, Angelo gave credit to the winner Sanchez for his great race. Sanchez also won 400-meter hurdles gold at the 2004 Olympics, so his win Monday matched AT's mark of two golds in the 400mH over an eight-year span. Combined, Angelo and Sanchez have won all four golds in the 400mH since the turn of the century.
"My hat goes off to him. He put it together. I know how tough it is to repeat as champion, and he's been working hard all year long," Angelo said. "He's had some struggles, but he put it together on the day that counts."
But the story after the race was how quickly that the rest of the world has caught up to the United States on the track. In Beijing, Team USA swept the medals in the men's 400-meters and the 400-meter hurdles. Just four years later Americans had just one medal — Tinsley's silver — to show for the two races in London.
"More and more people are getting more serious about track and field in different events, really focusing and really studying events. They're tired of the USA beating up on 'em," Angelo said. "I never thought I'd see a day when Jamaicans would dominate the sprints. But it's a new day, a new era. Things change. People evolve. People show up."
The Americans still have one more chance to assert their dominance in the quarter-mile when they lace up for the 4x400 next Thursday and Friday, an event they haven't lost at the Olympics since 1972.
Angelo will be looking for repeat gold in the 4x400, but the team around him will be drastically different from 2008 (Getty Images).
But Team USA' 4x400 team has taken several hits in the last few days. Only Angelo returns from the team that won gold in Beijing. LaShawn Merritt, the 2008 400-meter gold medalist, is out with a hamstring injury as is 2004 gold medalist Jeremy Wariner. The team's other member, David Neville, has not competed since 2009. That leaves Angelo and a collection of first time Olympians to run for the gold.
AT will not run in the 4x400 prelim on Thursday so qualifying will be up to the team of Manteo Mitchell, Josh Mance, Tony McQuay and Bryshon Nellum. As long as that group qualifies for the final, Angelo will run the anchor leg on Friday night.
The preliminary round of the men's 4x400-meter relay is scheduled for 6:35 a.m. EDT on Thursday with the final the next day at 4:20 p.m. EDT. Both races can be seen live on NBCOlympics.com.
- Suhr wins emotional gold; Tinsley surprises with silver (USATF.org, August 6, 2012)
- USA watches others win events it used to dominate (USA Today, August 6, 2012)
- America's 400-meter dynasty ends (SI.com, August 6, 2012)
- Athletics: Sanchez storms to 400 hurdles gold (Reuters, August 6, 2012)
- Tech's Taylor fifth in Olympics 400 hurdles (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, August 6, 2012)
- Sanchez wins 2nd Olympic 400-meter hurdle gold (Associated Press, August 6, 2012)