Americans Go 1-2 In 110m Hurdles
MOSCOW – They hugged their moms. They hugged each other.
And David Oliver and Ryan Wilson finally embraced the success they were due.
Oliver, 31, and Wilson, 32, went 1-2 in the 110-meter hurdles Monday at the IAAF World Championships, a tribute to their hard work overcoming injuries and bad timing.
“I came across the line and I was like, ‘I’m first, man!’ That’s all,” said Oliver, who clocked a world-leading time of 13 seconds flat. “I can’t tell you anything about the race.”
As photographers and television cameramen swarmed him, Oliver saw the results appear on the big screen, with Wilson’s name immediately below his.
“He just goes, ‘Awww, I didn’t know you got second!’” said Wilson, who ran 13.13. “He was so excited.
“We shared a genuine hug out there.”
The two ran against each other in college — Oliver for Howard University and Wilson for Southern Cal. Both have had to overcome injuries, including last year when neither made the U.S. Olympic Team.
And both had good years when there were no Olympic or world championship teams to be made. In 2010, Oliver was first and Wilson second at the USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships. Oliver even set the American record twice that year.
“I’m just really excited that I couldn’t have lost to a better competitor,” Wilson said. “We’ve been doing battle for a long time.”
“That’s what’s cool about it,” Oliver said. “Ryan, he’s been through more in his career than I have. For him to make his first (major international) team at 32 and come out here and win the silver medal, beating all these people who were considered favorites over him, it’s nice.”
The United States narrowly missed the first 1-2-3 sweep since 1960, with Sergey Shubenkov of Russia edging Jason Richardson, the defending world champion and Olympic silver medalist from the United States, 13.24 to 13.27. Richardson hit the last hurdle, knocking him off stride.
The fourth American in the final, Olympic champ and world-record holder Aries Merritt struggled and finished sixth in 13.31. He had been hampered by a hamstring injury that forced him to miss much of the early outdoor campaign.
“I’m not really disappointed,” Merritt said. “I’m happy that I could walk away from that race injury-free.”
In the women’s 100, Carmelita Jeter, the reigning world champ and Olympic silver medalist, clinched the bronze medal despite a quadriceps injury that had shortened her season.
“We all know me being there was something nobody thought of,” Jeter said. “They didn't think I was going to be in the final; they didn't think I'd be in the first round; they didn't think I could be in the second round. One thing you’ve got to know about me is I've got heart, and my heart outweighs my talent.”
Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce of Jamaica won the 100, while English Gardner of the United States finished fourth. American Alexandria Alexander placed seventh and teammate Octavious Freeman eighth.
Shot putter Michelle Carter and pole vaulter Brad Johnson also earned fourth-place finishes on the night.
After the 110m hurdles, Oliver and Wilson draped American flags around their shoulders and took their victory laps in search of their mothers.
“I always run well when my mom’s in the house, bringing that Columbus, Ohio, spirit,” said Wilson, who now lives in Los Angeles.
Oliver said he was looking for his mother for 300 meters before he found her on the backstretch. Brenda Chambers was a national-caliber 400 hurdler and a contemporary of the 1980 U.S. Olympic Team that did not compete in the Games in Moscow because of a boycott.
“Brenda over there about to have me in tears,” Oliver said, claiming that he didn’t shed a tear.
“I might go home and shed some now. There’s a lot of hard work, just coming up short and dealing with injuries and all kinds of stuff. A lot of changes had to be made. Now I can sit back with my team and celebrate that we’re world champions.”
He lost weight, dropping from 212 to 207 pounds, and said being leaner makes a big difference. Oliver, who grew up in Denver and now lives in Kissimmee, Fla., changed his weight training, changed his diet and doesn’t train on Wednesdays.
“I know how to hurdle,” Oliver said. “It’s about getting to the meets fresh, not overtraining and causing injuries like years before.”
After earning the Olympic bronze medal in 2008, Oliver tore his left calf in 2009, and that came back to haunt him. “Last year, at the (U.S. Olympic Team Trials) in between the semis and the finals, it just locked up and there was nothing there I could do,” said Oliver who finished fifth.
Wilson was running with the leaders when he hit the seventh hurdle and fell back to seventh place.
Despite not competing in London, Oliver finished last season ranked No. 3.
“I just tried to make hard negatives into positives,” said Oliver, who has a smile on his face win or lose. “That’s kind of what I do.”
He added that life doesn’t always go your way, saying it’s like a pendulum swinging backward and forward.
“When it swings forward, you better hang on and ride it out,” Oliver said.
This season the pendulum was swinging forward for him. Oliver arrived in Moscow as the world leader with a time of 13.04 seconds.
But in his semifinal earlier Monday, he caught the eighth hurdle with his trail leg, lost his momentum and felt like he was about to fall.
“It’s a scary feeling,” Oliver said. “It’s a 110-meter hurdle race, not 70 or 90. That was my wake-up call. It gave me confidence for the final.”
After his coach, Brooks Johnson, used a few choice words to get him focused, Oliver got out of the blocks well in the final and stayed in command through all 10 hurdles.
With Oliver’s title in Moscow, the United States has now won nine of the 14 world championships titles in this event: Greg Foster won three, Allen Johnson four and Richardson one.
“It feels pretty good to put my name up there in the pantheon of greats who have done it across history,” Oliver said.
While Oliver was in lane 4, his teammates were in a little cluster to his right — Richardson in lane 7, Merritt in lane 8 and Wilson in lane 9.
“I was going so fast,” said Richardson, adding that he turned on “the jet fuel, the Mario Kart mushrooms. I did whatever it took to get back in it. I made a great boost of speed and my hurdle technique just couldn’t support it and I clipped it (the last hurdle.)”
He added that he’s only 27 and has time to win another world title.
“David’s in his 30s and it’s his first championships so that gives me hope that I can get it right another year,” Richardson said.
Merritt said he made mistakes and hit hurdles.
“The guys who got it done here deserve all the credit and the utmost respect,” Merritt said.
Wilson is ready for some respect. “They stuck me out in lane 9,” Wilson said. “Nobody thought I could do it.”
He said that since winning nationals, people had been telling him he should be happy simply to have made the team.
“It wasn’t a fluke! I think I just now proved it,” Wilson said. “So maybe next year if I win USAs, it won’t be a surprise.”
Though he was pleased with the silver medal, he felt like he had blown opportunities in the race.
“So basically it’s six (to) eight seconds of disappointment followed by 10 (to) 15 minutes of proud excitement,” Wilson said.
“I can’t wait for that medal ceremony tomorrow. Even though I was second, it’s still going to be my anthem playing. I’ve been saving that ceremony jacket, keeping it crisp. I’ve seen a lot of people wearing their jackets around. I was saving mine for a special occasion and now I got my special occasion tomorrow.”
Karen Rosen is an Atlanta-based sportswriter who has covered 13 Olympic Games. She has contributed to TeamUSA.org since 2009.