Wariner, Richards speak

By Kate Hairopoulos
The Dallas Morning News
BEIJING - Jeremy Wariner took his signature sunglasses off his head for a moment to bow and accept the medal he’d been missing.
Sanya Richards pumped her fist as she crossed the finish line, baton clutched in hand, knowing she’d found a way to ease the disappointment of the last few days.
Both anchored victorious U.S. 4x400-meter relay teams Saturday night at the Bird's Nest'' National Stadium, their success finally putting a golden hue on their Olympics and helping to put some shine on what had been a frustrating Games for U.S. Track and Field. Wariner's blazing final leg of 43.16 seconds propelled the U.S. men to their 18th victory in 22 tries in the event. The team of LaShawn Merritt, Angelo Taylor, David Neville and Wariner did it in an Olympic record time of 2:55.39, breaking the former record of 2:55.74, set by the U.S. in 1992. Wariner, who won his second straight relay gold, had settled for silver Thursday, failing to defend his 400 Olympic crown against Merritt. In the women's relay, Richards chased down Russia's Anastasia Kapachinskaya in a thrilling last 50 meters. The U.S. team of Mary Wineberg, Allyson Felix, Monique Henderson and Richards ran a 3:18.54, the fastest time in the world since 1993, and captured the fourth-straight U.S. gold in the event. Richards, dominant in the 400 for years and a member of the 2004 relay team that won gold, suffered a left hamstring cramp in the open race and settled for individual bronze. It’s a great way to finish the Olympics, and we’re all happy,’’
said Wariner, clad in the new red USA uniforms both relay teams wore to signal a change in attitude. In '04, I did come out with two golds, but I came out with silver and gold here. Unfortunately, my open race wasn't what I wanted, but I've got to look past that. I've got a long career ahead of me.'' Wariner, of Arlington Lamar and Baylor, scoffed at the notion he had something to prove. I don’t use things as redemption,’’ he said. Especially when we come together as a relay. We're out there as one.'' Richards said she couldn't sleep after missing gold in the open 400. She spent the night of the race with her family, who tried to distract her, but to no avail. It’s hard,’’ she said. I've thought about it four years, and coming up short, the memory won't go away over night. But at least now I have something positive to think about, as well.'' It's not often the U.S. is behind in the final leg of the 400, but Richards rose to the occasion Saturday. When I saw the Russian team ahead of us, I was like, ‘Finally, I get a chance to chase and really have fun,’’’ said Richards, a Texas-ex who trains in Waco under Clyde Hart. ``It really pumped me up, and I was excited to go for it. . . . With about 50 meters to go, I knew I had it.’’
U.S. track totaled a world’s-best 23 medals, seven gold, but much of the attention has been on the miscues. American record holder Tyson Gay didn’t make the 100 meters final. The 4x100 men’s and women’s relay teams dropped batons in qualifying and didn’t reach the finals.
Jamaican sprinters - headlined by Usain Bolt’s world records in the 100 and 200 meters - stole the show.
But the U.S. has always had the 4x400. And that didn’t change Saturday.