US athletes avoid worst gold haul

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> With their seventh gold medal in Beijing, they have avoided their worst performance of six in 1972, 1976 and 2000.

Updated: August 30, 2008 08:50 IST
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Jeremy Wariner anchored the US 4x400-meter relay team to victory in an Olympic record 2mins 55.39secs, enabling the Americans to avoid the shame of matching their worst athletics gold haul.

New 400m Olympic champion LaShawn Merritt, 400m hurdles Olympic champion Angelo Taylor, 400m bronze medallist David Neville and two-time world 400m champion Wariner broke the old mark of 2:55.74 set by the US men in 1992.

It was the fastest showing for a US relay since a world-record effort of 2:54.29 at the 1993 world championships in Stuttgart, Germany.

"We all just gave it our all and ran an Olympic record," Wariner said. "It was close to the world record, the fastest time since then. We have a lot more to come."

US men have won the event 16 times in 21 tries, including 11 of the past 13.

Bahamas, last year's world runner-up, were second in 2:58.03 with Russia third in 2:58.06.

With their seventh Beijing gold medal, the Americans nosed past Jamaica and Russia by one in overall golds and raised their athetlics medal total to 23, five more than second-best Russia.

The triumph also enabled the disappointing US squad to avoid the shame of matching an all-time Olympic low for athletics gold.

US squads managed only six Olympics golds in 1972, 1976 and in 2000 when four others were stripped for doping, three from Marion Jones. Sydney was a US low of 14 total medals with the next-worst being 22 from 1972 and 1976.

US sweeps in the men's 400m and 400m hurdles and men's and women's 400m relays eased the pain from flops by such stars as world champions Bernard Lagat, sprinter Tyson Gay and Wariner, who lost the 400 crown to Merritt.

"I was asked if I wanted to use this to redeem myself from the individual, but not at all," Wariner said. "We wanted to run this as a team.

"A lot of things happened here we weren't expecting. But that gives us a lot to work on for the world championships next year."

Merritt was ecstatic to double his gold tally.

"I wanted my second gold medal so this felt good," Merritt said. "My first Games, two gold medals, a personal record, an Olympic record - can't ask for more than that."

Merritt put the Americans ahead on the opening leg and Taylor stretched the margin before making the handoff to Neville, a carefully made pass given dropped batons by both US 4x100m relays.

Neville handed the stick to anchor man Wariner and the 2004 Olympic champion sped off, serving notice to the field the Americans would not be denied.

Bahamas anchor Chris Brown surged into second and held off Russia's Denis Alexeev at the line.
Britain was fourth in 2:58.81 with Belgium fifth in 2:59.37 and Australia, the 2004 silver medallists, sixth in 3:00.02.

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