Stuttgart 1993 Women's 100
Atlanta 1992 Women's 100
(Three days later in Stuttgart, Ottey finally ended her gold-medal drought by taking the 200 win from Torrence, 21.98-22.00. Ottey retained her title two years later in Göteborg—but only after initial winner Torrence was DQ’ed for five steps on the line around the turn. Ottey timed 22.12, the same time as silver winner Privalova.)
Then at the ’96 Olympics in Atlanta, Devers and Ottey waged another closerthanthis battle, the American defending her crown as both were credited with 10.94 times. But the phototimer also revealed that Devers won by a margin of 0.005—yes, five one-thousandths. Incredible racing in all the contests—and thank goodness for the development of such precise timing. Otherwise, we might never really know the “margins” between the racers.
Women's 200 Prefontaine 2017
Said Bowie, “My coach Lance Brauman said I was capable of running 21.7 this year. I just wanted to come out and set a PR. I did that, so I’m happy.” I was happy, too, having had the chance to see such a superb race so close to home.
Freeman had been the final torchbearer at the Games’ Opening Ceremonies, being forced to stand several minutes amid dripping water and holding the flaming torch aloft as a platform meant to raise her up to light the cauldron had malfunctioned. But eventually the platform rose and Freeman completed the lighting ritual.
At age 27, Freeman also represented Australia’s indigenous people by virtue of her Aboriginal heritage. She also had won the ’97 and ’99 world one-lap titles, so was one of the most closely-watched home athletes in Oz’s first Games since the ’56 edition farther south in Melbourne.
Freeman took to the track for the September 28 final in lane 6 clad in a full-length, form-fitting body suit, complete with a zip-up hood over her head. Sitting with the T&FN Olympic Tour fans, we all knew this was going to be Australia’s best shot at a gold medal.
Her prime rivals were expected to be Jamaican Lorraine Graham in lane 4 and Briton Katherine Merry in lane 3, the respective 3rd- and 5th-placers from the Seville World Champs race of the year before.
Graham got out fast (23.70) and led Merry (23.90) and Freeman (24.08) by some 3 meters at halfway. Merry moved up around the second turn and was just 0.1 behind Graham’s 35.9 at the 300 mark. But then Freeman began to move into the homestretch…
…And the crowd noise reached a jet-engine roar. She took over with perhaps 75 meters left and went on to win by 4 meters in 49.11 from Graham (49.58) and Merry (49.72, to just edge teammate Donna Fraser by 0.07).
When Freeman hit the finish line, the crowd erupted in one final explosion of booming sound. Beyond the line, Freeman sat down with what I felt was a bewildered look on her face as she unzipped her racing hood. It was almost like she was thinking, “Did I really just do that?”
Sydney Women's 400
She had indeed and the Games had to have been complete for her Aussie compatriots. For me, from then on, every crowd reaction has been measured against the stunning wall of continuous sound that seemed to help carry Freeman around that one triumphant lap.
But perhaps the closest Devers really got to the Games 100H victory also produced the most memorable race I ever saw in the event. Devers was barreling along with a clear margin in the ’92 Barcelona final, staged on August 6 in the hilltop Montjuïc Olympic Stadium.
Devers let the third American, Lynda Tolbert, take Semi I in just 13.10, but against a 1.9mps headwind. Martin improved to 12.81 to take Semi II, 0.06 ahead of Donkova with Greece’s lightly-regarded Paraskevi Patoulídou 3rd in an NR 12.88.
Devers took command of the final from Martin by hurdle 2 and sped along what looked like a certain gold medal. But there are few, if any, certainties in the Olympics. By barrier 9, the blue-clad Patoulídou had pushed up to 2nd ahead of Martin and Tolbert. Devers still was in the lead…
…But then came the fateful final hurdle. Video replays later revealed that Devers, in the moment before she rose to the final barrier, took a furtive glance to her right. That’s all the distraction that was needed before Devers whacked the crossbar with her lead right foot and stumbled on landing.
She stretched out and appeared to be almost parallel with the track as the leaders rushed past her. The plucky Devers somehow regained her footing in the final meters and cartwheeled over the line in 12.75 to end up 5th. Tolbert ran the same time for 4th, 0.05 behind bronzer winner Donkova.
Martin clocked a career-fastest 12.69 to grab the silver medal as the astonished Patoulídou claimed a totally unexpected victory in a lifetime best of 12.64. Afterward, the 27-year-old champion—known by her nickname of Voula—said simply, “I won! I don’t believe it!” She had become Greece’s first-ever women’s Olympic track & field champion.
Barcelona 1992 Women's 100M Hurdles
Remarkably composed, Devers reflected, “I got to the last hurdle faster than I ever had before. But when you hit it with your lead foot, your balance is shot. As I went down, my only thought was to finish and I just kept scrambling until I got over the line.”
It had to have been a heart-breaking outcome, yet the unexpected finish helped create a totally improbable, yet utterly memorable, race. So did Patoulídou’s moment-of-a-lifetime performance.
Then two years later in Göteborg the 4th-placer in that Stuttgart race, American Kim Batten, waged a thrilling full-lap contest with teammate Tonja Buford-Bailey before prevailing in a WR 52.61. TBB also ducked under Gunnell’s former record with her 52.62 right behind Batten.
But those superb races were overwhelmed by the sheer quality of the Sacramento final run on June 25. It was simply the highest-quality 400 hurdles race ever run by U.S. women. High school sensation Sydney McLaughlin shattered her own World Junior Record of 54.03 with a superb 53.82—a clocking that would have won the national title in eight of the past nine years. Yet McLaughlin finished only 6th this time.
That’s because all five women ahead of her ran lifetime bests to move to into the top 10 Americans ever. Olympic champion Dalilah Muhammad cut down her best from the 52.88 that won her the ’16 Trials to 52.64 in becoming No. 4 all-time U.S. performer as well as No. 6 globally. And she ran that fast after being hampered by sciatic pain since about a month earlier in the Prefontaine Classic Diamond League race, where she clocked a still-excellent 54.53 yet placed only 5th.
In 2nd, ’15 winner Shamier Little dipped under 53.0 for the first time with 52.75 (No. 9 world performer, No. 5 U.S.) ahead of Collegiate Record holder Kori Carter’s 52.95 (No. 7 U.S. performer). Rio Olympic bronze medalist Ashley Spencer trimmed her best to 53.11 (No. 9 U.S. performer) but missed the London Worlds team by placing 4th. London ’12 Olympian Georganne Moline followed in 5th, still lowering her PR to 53.14.
The 27-year-old Muhammad charged out in lane 5 with Little inside her in 4 and Carter out in 7. Leading with her right leg save for Nos. 8 and 10, Muhammad led off the second curve and maintained a strong final straight. She needed it as Little surged between 7-8 to move into 2nd and then chased hard after Muhammad to the line.
At No. 10, Moline ran 3rd ahead of Carter, but Carter finished stronger to claim the last team spot. Spencer’s big rush on the run-in got her 4th and pushed Moline back to 5th. McLaughlin was a solitary, yet still record-setting, 6th for the race’s second half.
Sacremento 2017 Women's 400m Hurdles
And when asked about getting the first three home under 53-flat, Little observed with a wry smile, “Those ladies—excuse my language—ran their asses off.”