The Washington Post
U.S. claims four golds, but not all goes to plan
Hurdlers fail to match sweep in shot put after Allen called for false start
eugene, ore. — In one corner of Hayward Field, a trio of American hurdlers stood behind their blocks, poised for both elation and heartbreak. On the other side of the oval, a pair of American pole vaulters, Katie Nageotte and Sandi Morris, posed with American flags across their backs and gold and silver medals around their necks. On the infield, Joe Kovacs stood in the throwing circle, arms raised, as a plume of dust wafted into the air where his shot had landed — a celebration that soon would be nullified by Ryan Crouser, his inexorable teammate.
In this track-mad town, they have waited decades for a night like Sunday’s. On Day 3 of the world championships, Americans clogged podiums and hogged medals. U.S. athletes won four golds, and in each of those
events a teammate joined the winner on the podium. They needed a traffic cop to sort out the victory laps.
Crouser and Nageotte validated the Olympic gold medals they won in Tokyo. Grant Holloway reclaimed his throne as the fastest 110-meter hurdler in the world, rebounding from the bitter silver he won last summer by edging teammate Trey Cunningham, 13.03 seconds to 13.08. Those rapid-fire golds at night piled atop the hammer throw gold medal Brooke Andersen won in the morning.
Roars moved through Hayward Field like an electric current, interrupted only by boos after the removal of a crowd favorite. Oregon alum and Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Devon Allen hoped he would win a 110-meter world championship just weeks after the sudden death of his father. Race officials ruled he committed a false start, disqualifying him from the race and preventing a U.S. podium sweep.
“I’m one one-thousandths slower [in the blocks] and everybody’s happy — ‘ Hey, great race, world champ,’ ” Allen said. “It’s a little frustrating. It’s so absolute, which kind of sucks.”
When Allen heard the gun stop the race, he had no concern that he had been flagged. He thought perhaps Holloway hadn’t been set and they would restart the race. He was stunned when the public address announced Lane 3 — his lane — as the culprit.
“I know for a fact I didn’t go until I heard the gun,” Allen said.
One day after the United States swept the men’s 100-meter medals, Crouser, Kovacs and Josh Awotunde, a first-time global medalist, repeated the feat in the shot put. Crouser, the world record holder, stole the title of world champion from Kovacs with his fifth throw, a 22.94-meter (75-foot-3-inch) bomb.
The U.S. celebrations and victory laps were pierced at the end by honking vuvuzelas, a signal that a Jamaican — or three — has just run a short distance very fast. Shelly-ann Fraser-pryce led a repeat of the Jamaican sweep of the 100-meter podium from the Tokyo Olympics, winning her fifth world championship in the event in a blazing 10.67 to go with her two Olympic gold medals.
Fraser-pryce, a 35-year-old mother, added more evidence for her case as the greatest female sprinter in history. Shericka Jackson and Elaine ThompsonHerah, the reigning Olympic champion, finished just behind her.
But this day belonged to the host country. It finished the night with 14 medals, six of them gold, over three days. No other nation has claimed more than three total medals. The table is likely to grow more lopsided. In Michael Norman, Athing Mu, Sydney Mclaughlin, Valarie Allman and the combination of Noah Lyles and Erriyon Knighton, the United States possesses the heavy favorite in the men’s 400 meters, women’s 800 meters, women’s 400-meter hurdles, women’s discus and men’s 200 meters. Three of the four relays are the United States’ to lose, too.
But Allen’s elimination placed a cloud over the day. He played football at Oregon, catching 41 passes for 684 yards and seven touchdowns as a freshman in 2014 before he tore a knee ligament on the opening kickoff of the Rose Bowl. He shelved football after college as he forged his track career, finishing fifth at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics and fourth in Tokyo nine months after major surgery. He alerted NFL teams of his intention to return to football by working out at Oregon’s pro day in April, and the Eagles, enamored with his speed, signed him days later. He reports to training camp July 26, but his football focus will not mean a pause in the hurdles.
“A lot of people say it’s going to be a choice,” Allen said last month. “As long as I’m young and healthy — which is until I’m 35 — I’m going to be able to do both.”
Introduced at the starting line Sunday night as “a U of O legend,” Allen received one of the loudest cheers of any athlete here. This past week, a fan walked through the Hayward concourse wearing an Eagles jersey with Allen’s name on the back and No. 110. “I got to get one of those,” Allen said. “I wish I could wear 110.”
The morning he qualified for worlds at the U.S. championships, Allen learned his father, Louis, had died suddenly at 63. He never considered dropping out of the race, choosing instead to compartmentalize.
“It would have been kind of a waste to not [make the team],” Allen said after his prelim heat Saturday. “My dad would be excited for me to win worlds and break the world record and play for the Eagles and catch touchdowns. So I’m going to keep doing exactly that.”
Allen was not the only American with a side hustle. When Andersen graduated college four years ago, she followed her coach to Kansas with a nearly empty bank account — the financial reality so many U.S. track and field athletes face. She worked 30 to 35 hours per week at Chipotle and another 20 at GNC. She fit practices and workouts around her shifts.
“I knew I still had a lot left to give to the sport,” she said.
Andersen made her first Olympic team last year and finished 10th in Tokyo. This year, she recovered from nagging injuries and transformed from one of the best current U.S. hammer throwers to one of the best in the world — ever. In April, she launched a 79.02-meter (259-foot-3-inch) throw that was the fourth best of all time. She won her first national title last month.
Andersen, who now lives in Phoenix, still rings up customers at Chipotle 30 hours per week, although the Nike contract she signed days before worlds may allow her to make throwing her only job. She entered Sunday as the favorite. When Canadian silver medalist Camryn Rogers couldn’t pass her with her final try, Andersen had secured victory one day after Chase Ealey gave U.S. women a throwing gold in the shot put.
“I wanted to start crying because I knew what had just happened,” Andersen said. “But the competitiveness in me was like: ‘ You still have another throw. You can throw farther.’ ”
Andersen made the last throw her longest, unleashing a 78.96-meter heave. She jogged around the Hayward Field track with an American flag wrapped around her shoulders, the payoff for those hours spent wrapping burritos and stocking supplements.
“It’s all worth it in the end,” she said. “If this is the outcome, I’d do it a million times over.”