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Sunday, September 24
Takahashi breaks women's marathon record

SYDNEY, Australia -- Naoko Takahashi, running alone for the last four miles on a warm, humid day, broke the finish-line tape in the women's marathon Sunday (Saturday night ET) and raised her arms in triumph. Then she bowed to the crowd.

Takahashi, overcoming 91 percent humidity, won gold in an Olympic-best 2 hours, 23 minutes, 14 seconds to become the first Japanese woman to win an Olympic track and field gold medal.

Lidia Simon of Romania won silver in 2:23.22 and Joyce Chepchumba of Kenya won bronze.

Chepchumba didn't want to stop. She crossed the finish line and kept running, apparently thinking she had not yet completed the race. Officials told her to stop, and she stood on the track for several seconds -- hands on her hips -- in confusion.

Takahashi, who took a victory lap waving a tiny Japanese flag, broke the previous Olympic best of 2:24.52 set by Joan Benoit in the inaugural women's marathon at the 1984 Los Angeles Games.

Japanese flags greeted Takahashi along much of the marathon course, which crossed the Harbor Bridge and wound through the streets of Sydney -- passing by the posh shops and restaurants of Darling Harbor -- before heading into the suburbs and on to the Olympic Stadium.

She broke away from the pack with about 4\ miles remaining, and led the rest of the way. It was 57 degrees at the start of the race, and 70 by the end.

"It really hasn't set in to me that I have really won the gold medal," Takahashi said through a translator. "Sometimes I feel a little sorry that it's finished and sometimes I feel relieved."

Defending Olympic champion Fatuma Roba of Ethiopia finished ninth. Tegla Loroupe of Kenya, who set a world best of 2:20.43 in the Berlin Marathon last year, was 13th.

Christine Clark, a pathologist from Anchorage, Alaska, finished 19th in 2:31.35 -- a personal best by nearly two minutes. She was the only U.S. entrant in the race.

East Timor's Aguida Amaral finished in 3:10.55. Not realizing she had one more lap to run, Amaral stopped near the finish line and placed her hands together as she knelt to the track. An official gently informed Amaral she was not done, and she took one more lap to rousing applause.

The last marathoner on the course, Sirivanh Ketavong of Laos, finished to a standing ovation from some fans in 3:34.27 -- more than an hour behind the winner.

In the men's 110-meter hurdles, defending champion Allen Johnson ignored a hamstring injury that still requires regular treatment and breezed to victory in his first-round heat in 13.50 seconds.

Johnson was joined in the second round by U.S. teammate and 1996 Atlanta silver medalist Mark Crear, who won his heat in 13.44 seconds.

Also advancing to the second round was the third American in the event, Terrence Trammell, as well as world champion Colin Jackson of Britain and medal contender Anier Garcia of Cuba.

Reigning world champion Anthony Washington and U.S. teammate Adam Setliff advanced to the final of the men's discus throw, but John Godina was eliminated in the qualifying round. Godina won a bronze medal in the shot put two days earlier.

After five events of the heptathlon, 1996 silver medalist Natalia Sazanovich of Belarus led with 4,910 points and 1996 bronze medalist Denise Lewis of Britain was second with 4,853. Dedee Nathan of the United States was ninth with 4,547.

Reigning world champion Eunice Barber of France was in 10th place. The president of the French athletic federation, Philippe Lamblin, said Barber withdrew from the competition.

On Saturday, Jan Zelezny's historic triumph was a mere footnote on a night dominated by sprinters Marion Jones and Maurice Greene.

While the American speedsters won their first Olympic medals, Zelezny became the only person to capture three straight Olympic javelin titles. And he did it by breaking his own Olympic record with a throw of 295 feet, 9{ inches (90.17 meters).

Britain's Steve Backley ended up with the silver medal and Russia's Sergei Makarov won the bronze.

Also Saturday, Michael Johnson and Cathy Freeman easily won second-round heats in the 400 and advanced to Sunday's semifinals. World record holder Stacy Dragila qualified for the final of the first Olympic women's pole vault.

In the men's 400, Johnson won his heat in 45.31 seconds. For the second straight round, Alvin Harrison had the best time -- he won his heat in 44.25. Also reaching the semifinals was the third American, Antonio Pettigrew.

In the women's 800 semifinals, Hazel Clark advanced to the final. Older sister Joetta Clark-Diggs and sister-in-law Jearl Miles-Clark both were eliminated.

Americans were shut out in three other events.

Lance Deal, a silver medalist at the 1996 Atlanta Games and the grand old man of U.S. hammer throwing, failed to advance out of the qualifying round. So did teammates Jud Logan and Kevin McMahon.

All three American men in the 800 meters -- Mark Everett, Bryan Woodward and Richard Kenah -- were left behind in Saturday's first round.

And the two U.S. women left in the 400 meters, LaTasha Colander-Richardson and Monique Hennagan, both were eliminated in the second round. Michelle Collins was ousted in the first round a day earlier.


Track and field results

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