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Miller's dive denies Felix 400 history

News wire services
Bahamas sprinter Shaunae Miller gave the 400 her all, diving at the finish to claim gold.

Rio de Janeiro — It took a head-first dive by Shaunae Miller at the finish line to beat Allyson Felix, denying her a record fifth Olympic gold medal.

Miller, the 22-year-old from the Bahamas, stayed even with Felix for 398 meters, then sprawled, dove and crashed across the line to edge Felix by .07 seconds.

She’ll get the gold medal in the 400 meters. Maybe they should give her a cape, too.

This was supposed to be a stroll and something of a coronation for Felix, who was the defending world champion and had the best career time of the eight women in Monday night’s final. She was trying to become the first woman to win five track golds at the Olympics.

Halfway through the race, it was clear that was no sure thing.

Starting from Lane 7, Miller expanded the lag, instead of getting gobbled up. Felix slowly chipped away. They came down the last 100 meters and Felix drew even, maybe even got a step ahead.

Stride for stride they ran, until the last few steps. Felix, trained by Bobby Kersee, made a textbook lean into the finish line. Miller tried something else. The dive is something no coach would ever teach. Then again, amazing things happen with a gold medal on the line.

Shaunae Miller dives to cross the finish line ahead of American Allyson Felix in the women's 400 final.

As Miller lay on her back, writhing in agony, Felix sat on the ground stone-faced. Ten seconds passed. Then 20.

The rules say the win is determined by which athlete has any part of her torso cross the line first. The photo finish showed the negative image of Miller’s sprawled out body, with her shoulder just barely over the line before Felix reached.

Finally, the result popped up. Miller won in 49.44 seconds.

What a finish. What a race.

And, yes, what a disappointment for Felix, whose year just didn’t turn out the way she planned it.

She was one of those rare athletes who had the cachet to get the Olympics to change the schedule. After winning the World Championship at 400 meters last year, she put the 200-400 double in her sights for the Olympics. The schedule as it was originally written made it impossible — with the 200 heats scheduled for the same evening as the 400 final.

Allyson Felix, the defending world champion in the 400, was trying to become the first woman to win five track golds at the Olympics.

Felix asked, and she received: The 200 heats were moved to the morning to give America’s best female sprinter a chance for the two-fer.

But she never got to the starting line in the 200. She landed awkwardly on a medicine ball while doing core work in the gym during the spring. “I’d never seen my ankle that big before, and it happened immediately,” she said.

Suddenly, the quest for two golds was simply a struggle to make the Olympics. She did in the 400. But the 200, which requires more “speed work” running hard around the curve, never got where it needed to go. Felix came in fourth at trials, one spot out of the mix, and had to swallow that disappointment and get ready to make the 400 hers.

Miller had a different plan.

The flagbearer for her country in the opening ceremonies, Miller came into the games 5 for 5 in her races this season, including Diamond League meets in Shanghai, Eugene and London.

Now, she’s 6-for-6.

Gold vault for Brazil

Brazil won its second gold of the Rio Games when 22-year-old Thiago Braz Da Silva upset Olympic champion Renaud Lavillenie in the pole vault.

Lavillenie, of France, first set the Olympic record at 5.98 meters, But boosted by the boisterous home fans, da Silva cleared 6.03 to improve on that mark.

American Sam Kendricks took bronze at 5.85.

Weather woes

The song was already cued up. So when a downpour hit it wasn’t long before “Singin’ in the rain” was blaring.

Pole vault finalists, discus throwers, and hurdlers all went scurrying for cover when the rain kept falling and turned the blue track into a series of puddles and pools.

And the bad weather almost claimed an Olympic champion.

Sandra Perkovic had two fouls in wet and slippery conditions and was one discus throw away from being eliminated. In drier conditions, she came through with an automatic qualifying measure for the final. She celebrated like she had won. Denia Caballero, the world champion from Cuba, also needed a qualifying throw on her final attempt after two fouls.

The wet discus was difficult to grip.

“I felt like it was a bit of a butterball in my hand. It was slipping out and before I knew I was like, ‘man, that was my throw,’” said U.S. thrower Whitney Ashley, who had three fouls.

The discus was so slippery that 10 of 17 athletes had fouls on their first attempt, with many landing in the protective netting.

The 110-meter hurdles heats were hard hit, prompting organizers to run a special race later in the night.

“It’s atrocious. It’s hard to compete in weather like this,” said Jamaican hurdler Omar McLeod, who won the first heat amid heavy rain. “The water is beaming down in your face and your eyes and it’s real hard.”

It’s a risky event that already requires high precision.

“You’re worried about getting hurt,” McLeod said.

His teammate Deuce Carter was initially worse off. He slipped and slid past the finish of the next heat before he was disqualified.

“When I went out, the track was soaking,” he said. “I put my hand in water, basically a bucket of water.”

Some found it hard to comprehend why the first two of five heats were allowed to go ahead before rain finally forced a delay of about 25 minutes.

The non-qualified hurdlers from the first two heats were given a second chance — and it paid off for Carter — when organizers added a special race at the end of Monday night’s program to give them a chance to qualify on times. The first four in the five original heats qualified automatically for the next round, leaving the next four places to be decided on times. Carter won the extra race in 13.51 seconds, good enough to advance.

“This decision was taken to ensure fairness, because the conditions for heats 1 and 2 were dramatically different than the other heats,” said officials from the IAAF, track’s international governing body.

There were some amendments in the pole vault as well. The final was already affected by gusts of wind swirling through the stadium and organizers decided to start again from scratch.

No record, but gold

Middle distance runner David Rudisha won gold — but didn’t get a world record this time.

The Kenyan won his second Olympic title in a row by swerving into the lead just after halfway and using his long strides to kick for home in the 800 meters.

The only one to keep close was Algeria’s Taoufik Makhloufi, the 1,500 gold medalist at the London Games four years ago.

Between the two middle distance champions, Rudisha never gave Makhloufi a chance and won in 1:42.15 seconds, over a second off the time he set ini 2012.

Bad scheduling

Usain Bolt, the co-star of the Games along with Michael Phelps, said a tight schedule slowed down the sprinters in the 100 meters Sunday.

Bolt blamed the hour turnaround from the semifinals to the finals for his lumbering start before he recovered to win his third consecutive gold medal and retain the title as the world’s fastest man.

Baton beats

Every time Anita Wlodarczyk throws the hammer, she has a reminder right there with her of the friend she lost.

Wlodarcyk bettered her world record to win Olympic gold medal — and did it using the old, gray and tattered left glove of former champion and close friend Kamila Skolimowska.

Skolimowska, gold medalist at the 2000 Games, died in 2009 at the age of 26 after suffering a pulmonary embolism.

Since, Wlodarczyk has competed using her friend’s glove.

“I still throw with this glove,” Wlodarczyk said. “ I still have memories of her.”

... Highly decorated Jamaican sprinter Veronica Campbell-Brown will see a 200-meter Olympic final from a peculiar spot — the sideline.

The two-time Olympic gold medalist in the event didn’t make it out of the first round Monday, finishing third in her heat.