LONDON – The eight-woman field for Tuesday night’s 100-meter hurdle final was stacked with talent. Three of the eight were American: 2008 Olympic gold medalist Dawn Harper; Kellie Wells who had beaten world champion Sally Pearson of Australia less than a month earlier in London; and Lolo Jones who was hell-bent on redemption after leading the race at the 2008 Beijing Games then clipped the penultimate hurdle and tumbled to seventh place.
As the hurdlers settled into the blocks, a steady rain began.
“When the rain started, it was so dramatic,” Harper said, admitting that it made her imagine the theme music of a horror show. Her heart thumped.
She had less than 13 seconds to defend her title. And Pearson was the formidable favorite.
Wells was also conscious of the rain. “I was like: ‘Really? Again?’ But I can run quick in the rain. Let’s do it! This is a footrace. You HAVE to go.”
“I knew I needed a good start,” recalled Harper. “I was thinking, I’ve got to get in front of Kellie. I’ve got to get in front of Kellie.”
Wells and Pearson were the first ones out of the blocks; both reacted to the gun in .137 seconds.
When Harper cleared the last hurdle she looked to the finish and thought, “Either you’re winning by a lot because you don’t see anybody or Sally’s just so far ahead.”
In the end, it was Pearson’s victory. She blazed an Olympic record of 12.35 seconds and successfully upgraded her 2008 Olympic silver to 2012 gold.
The U.S. went 2-3-4, led by Harper and Wells with personal bests of 12.37 and 12.48, respectively. Jones ran a season-best 12.58.
The last time the U.S. had two women on the podium in this event was in 2004, and the first was in 1984.
In the end, Harper earned her silver and was pleased with her time. “I’m tired of 12.4’s. I got my 12.37.”
As for the fourth-place Jones, she said she was “obviously crushed. There was a lot riding on this race.” At the same time, she was proud of her U.S. teammates and said she’s not finished. Retire? “No, no, no,” she replied.