Webb Falters in Qualifier

Times Staff Writer

Alan Webb’s promising season ended with a bloody cut on his right leg and an expression on his face that mixed disgust with his race strategy and bewilderment over his vanished medal chances in the 1,500 meters.

But sprinter Lauryn Williams’ Olympic journey is just beginning, and it took a significant step forward when she won her quarterfinal heat of the women’s 100-meter dash Friday at Olympic Stadium and advanced to today’s semifinal.

“Definitely my start was the key to that race,” the 20-year-old University of Miami student said after being timed in 11.03 seconds, second-fastest behind the 10.99 clocked by Yulia Nesterenko of Belarus. “If I nail that start [today], only God knows the limit.”

The success of Williams, LaTasha Colander and 37-year-old Gail Devers, the 16th-fastest of 16 qualifiers, was the highlight of a mixed day for the U.S. track and field contingent.

Webb’s inability to get out of the first round represented a low point. It was especially deflating because he’d improved his personal-best time on five occasions this season and seemed poised to end a long U.S. middle-distance medal drought.


Instead, he couldn’t decide if he should lead or follow, and he couldn’t get out of the way. He clipped Bernard Lagat’s shoe late in the race, leading Lagat to kick off the shoe to make a frantic push down the stretch to qualify.

“It was a stupid race,” said Webb, whose right leg dripped blood after being spiked in the first 200 meters. “I wanted to make a move and I clipped somebody and it cost me however many tenths.... I wanted to be kind of in front, within striking distance, but I was all over the place. It was my inexperience. I should have been closer.”

Webb’s time of 3:41.25 was 0.12 of a second behind the final qualifier.

“I was having a great time up until now,” he said. “It wasn’t for a lack of effort.”

Williams, 20, said she’d been unable to sleep the night before because she was so edgy about her race.

“I’m still nervous,” she said. “I’m going to be nervous all the way through.... Any medal would be good, but a gold medal would be great.”

Colander, the U.S. trials 100-meter champion, advanced after finishing third in her heat at 11.20.

“It was really good making the next round,” she said. “I’m focusing on that and staying strong.”

Otis Harris led a three-man U.S. advance to the second round of the men’s 400 by running the second-fastest time, 45.11. Derrick Brew (45.41) and Jeremy Wariner (45.56) joined him.

“The first round is the hardest round,” said Wariner, who will be a junior at Baylor this fall. “I went out a little slow but was able to pick it up. I had a lot left. I could have gone under 45 if I wanted to but I need to save my legs because I got two more rounds to go.”

Two of three U.S. women advanced to the second round of the 800. Nicole Teter (2:01.16) and Jearl Miles-Clark (2:01.33) made it, but Miles-Clark’s sister-in-law, Hazel Clark, did not. Clark had sustained burns on her back and torso after an accident in which boiling water was spilled on her at the Olympic village, and the missed training time slowed her to 2:05.67.

The women’s 5,000 was another disappointment, as Shayne Culpepper, Marla Runyan and Shalane Flanagan didn’t advance to the semifinal.

Jamie Nieto and Matt Hemingway advanced to the men’s high jump final, but all three women’s discus entrants missed the final.


Robina Muqimyar of Afghanistan finished seventh of eight in her 100-meter heat and didn’t advance, but she made history as the first woman from her country to compete in an Olympic track event. She wore loose-fitting pants and no head scarf.

“I’m happy. This was my first wish, to run in the Olympic Games,” she said through an Afghan TV reporter who served as an interpreter.


Olympic trials triple jump champion Melvin Lister was eliminated in the qualifying round after a top jump of only 16.64 meters (54 feet 7 1/4 inches), short of the 17.75 meters (58-4) he leaped last month in Sacramento.

Lister blamed his problems on trackside officials’ refusal to allow him to use his measuring tape, which measures distances in feet and inches and serves as a guidepost for him. He said he was told the tape “might hurt somebody” because of a spiked attachment and was told to use a metric tape, but he didn’t have one and couldn’t work with the metric tape organizers supplied.

“Nobody told me I needed one,” he said. “Coming down, I need my running speed and to trust in my approach.”

Teammate Walter Davis, who advanced with a leap of 16.94 meters (55-7) scoffed at Lister’s excuse. “When you’re coming overseas, you’ve got to have a metric tape,” he said. “Mine is in feet and meters. You’ve got to come prepared.”

Kenta Bell also advanced, with a top jump of 16.98 meters (55-8 1/2 ).

Tim Seaman of Chula Vista set a 20-kilometer race walk record for an American at the Olympics by finishing in 1:25:17, ranking him 20th. Compatriots Kevin Eastler and John Nunn were 21st and 26th, respectively. Ivano Brugnetti of Italy won, in 1:19:40.