It’s a sweep feeling for U.S. in women’s 100-meter hurdles

American hurdlers (from left) Kristi Castlin, Brianna Rollis and Nia Ali check the scoreboard to see that they swept the women's 100-meter hurdles.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Moments after she had left the track after leading the first-ever 1-2-3 sweep by athletes from one country in the 100-meter hurdles, Brianna Rollins clutched a precious golden object in her right hand.

Her prize? Not a medal — an apple. “I’m so hungry,” she said, the only downside of waiting until Wednesday’s final event to become the first U.S. athlete to win a gold medal on the track at the Rio Games, though others had prevailed in field events.

The medal she earned Wednesday for winning in 12.48 seconds will be placed around her neck soon. That she will share the moment with Nia Ali (12.59 seconds) and Kristi Castlin (12.61 seconds) answered pleas they’ve long sent up to the heavens.

“We just prayed and said it was our time, let’s just go and do this and get this out of the way,” said Ali, who brought her 15-month-old son Titus Maximus onto the field. “We made sure everybody stayed calm and did their part.”

Castlin had to move up from seventh with three hurdles to go, nothing new for her but risky because of the situation and a cramping hamstring.


“My thing was not so much a bronze for myself but really just upholding the team,” she said. “We came into it as a team, for girl power for USA.”

Rollins ran a sure, powerful race but held off celebrating until she saw her teammates’ names listed after hers. Remember, too, they accomplished their sweep without American- and world-record holder Keni Harrison, who couldn’t make the team at the Olympic trials.

“Once I saw that on the board it just gave me the relief and excitement that I wanted to have today,” Rollins said.

That triumph capped a frantic few hours at Olympic Stadium. The madness included Jamaica’s Elaine Thompson adding the 200-meter dash title to her 100 crown with a time of 21.78 seconds — with the Netherlands’ Dafne Schippers second and American Tori Bowie third —and two-time defending double sprint champion Usain Bolt being pushed by Canada’s Andre De Grasse into running a season-best 19.78 seconds in the men’s 200 semifinal and scolding De Grasse with a finger-wag for not slowing the pace at the end.

Oh, and a 1-2 finish by Americans Tianna Bartoletta and Brittney Reese in the long jump. And Justin Gatlin, the 100-meter silver medalist behind Bolt, missing the 200 final by running the ninth-best semifinal time. He blamed an ankle injury for his fade, but he clearly was the odd man out of the growing domination and bromance between Bolt and De Grasse.

Bolt and De Grasse ran in adjacent lanes. Bolt was leading and was about to slow down when De Grasse closed the gap. “I wanted to run slower, but De Grasse had other ideas,” Bolt said, with a hint of annoyance in his fatherly tone. “He wanted to go faster and he got a national record.”

De Grasse, who briefly competed for USC, was timed in a personal-best and Canadian-record 19.80 seconds. He’s the frisky puppy to Bolt’s elegant greyhound, nipping at Bolt’s golden heels as the Jamaican attempts an unprecedented sweep of the 100, 200 and 400-meter relays in three straight Olympics.

“I had to push him a little bit to see what he had left in the tank,” De Grasse said. “He’s a great competitor and I just wanted to go out there and try and challenge him and push him and not give him an easy run.”

They both might regret it if they can’t recover in time for Thursday’s final, but it made for great theater Wednesday. So did Bartoletta’s victory over Reese, the 2012 Olympic gold medalist. Bartoletta, who competed in the 100 here but didn’t get out of the first round, hit 7.17 meters (23 feet, 61/4 inches) on her fifth leap. Reese, on her sixth leap, hit 7.15 meters (23-51/2).

“I never count her out,” Bartoletta said. “It’s just a great feeling, having pulled that off.”

Bowie, the 100 silver medalist, was timed Wednesday in 22.15 seconds, behind Thompson’s 21.78 and Schippers’ 21.88. She criticized her execution but that was picky.

“Overall I’m thankful with how the race went,” said Bowie, who had a relay practice scheduled Thursday morning.

Earlier Wednesday, Evan Jager of Algonquin, Ill., won silver in the 3,000-meter steeplechase behind Conseslus Kiproto of Kenya, who set an Olympic record of 8:03.29. Ezekiel Kemboi of Kenyawas third but was disqualified for stepping outside the track after clearing the water jump. France’s Mahiedine Mekhissi was elevated to bronze.

“Since I started steeplechasing, it’s been one of the goals of mine just to be in the mix with the Kenyans and beat some of them on the day at championship races,” Jager said.

Ashton Eaton, the 2012 decathlon gold medalist, led halfway through his event with 4,621 points. Also, U.S. trials 800-meter champion Kate Grace of Santa Monica advanced to the semifinals on time. “It was nerve-racking until the very final race, but I’m happy to have lived to run another day,” she said.

A day that ended with a frantic flurry of medals and hugs.

Twitter: @helenenothelen