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Friday, September 2, 2011
USA runs medal count to 16

Associated Press

DAEGU, South Korea -- Fatigued, Allyson Felix faltered down the stretch in her bid for a fourth straight 200-meter world title.

Energized, LaShawn Merritt rallied on the last turn in the 1,600-meter relay to win the gold medal, avoiding an embarrassing loss.

It was that kind of night for the United States at the world championships: highs (long jumper Dwight Phillips winning a fourth title) and lows (the mighty shot putters shut out of a medal). There was also Carmelita Jeter adding a silver medal in the 200 to her gold in the 100 earlier in the week.

The performance Friday wasn't as bountiful as the one a day earlier -- when the U.S. won three surprise gold medals in a half hour -- but it was plentiful nonetheless.

With a four-medal showing, the U.S. ran its count to 16, three ahead of Russia. Although, not all the medals were the color the Americans envisioned.

Felix entered the 200 as the overwhelming favorite. Under other circumstances, she might have made her customary kick. But she ventured outside her comfort zone at these worlds, trying to run the 400 as well.

All the rounds finally caught up with her in the 200 final. She couldn't catch Jamaican gold medalist Veronica Campbell-Brown or Jeter, winding up with bronze.

"I ran with a lot of heart because that was about all that was left for me," said Felix, who won silver in the 400 on Monday.

This will make her think twice about a 200-400 double at the London Olympics.

"If I had to say right now, it wouldn't be high on my list of things to do," Felix said. "But things change."

Other winners included Maria Abakumova of Russia (javelin), Sergey Bakulin of Russia (50-kilometer walk), David Storl of Germany (shot put) and Vivian Cheruiyot of Kenya (5,000).

Dwight Phillips
Dwight Phillips defended his long jump title with a leap of 27 feet, 8 3/4 inches.

On this day, as is often the case, Usain Bolt proved the consummate showman. Before the 200 semifinals, he did a little dance and threw a few jabs into the night air.

The 200 is hardly a fair fight when Bolt runs like this. Then again, Bolt has waited five days to get back on the track after the false start in the 100 final that led to his disqualification.

The Jamaican jumped to a big lead and ended this race in a hurry. But not before glancing from side to side to see if anyone was remotely close.

He was in the clear.

"I'm back to my normal self," Bolt said. "I'm trying to enjoy the game as much as possible. I'm really focused."

The biggest challenger to his 200 title could be the sprinter wearing the tinted sunglasses at night -- Walter Dix. The American looked just as relaxed, just as in control.

"Felt good," Dix said. "Going into the finals, looking for an upset."

Can he possibly spring an upset on Bolt? "Nah, he can't be beat," Dix said sarcastically.

Phillips has been just as difficult to beat at the worlds, capturing his fourth long jump title since 2003. Fittingly, he was given bib number 1111 -- No. 1 four times. After his victory, he ran through the pit on his last jump, ripped off his bib number and held it aloft.

"It was meant for me," said Phillips, who was sidelined earlier in the season with a left Achilles' tendon injury. "Nobody believed I could do this."

Just like nobody believed the Americans could fail to win a medal in the shot put, where they've won at least one at every worlds since 1991. What's more, the U.S. had four men in the final, including defending champion Christian Cantwell. Cantwell was the best of the bunch, fourth.

"I can't put into words what I'm feeling right now," he said. "I want to hide and put my head under a rock."

The U.S. 1,600 relay squad nearly knew that feeling, trailing for a good chunk of the race. But Merritt found another gear coming out of the final bend and blew past everyone.

"The race was closer than we thought, than we expected," Merritt said as the squad defended their title. "I got the baton and did my job, came home and added another gold for the U.S."

A surprise South African team wound up with the silver. Oscar Pistorius, the double-amputee sprinter known as "Blade Runner," wasn't even running. In a somewhat puzzling move, he was left out of the relay after helping the team to a national record the day before.

Earlier in the day, Pistorius said on Twitter he felt "Pretty Guttered." Later, after his teammates won a medal, he expressed his frustration.

"Was really hard watching knowing I deserved to be part of it," Pistorius wrote.

His South African teammate, defending 800 champion Caster Semenya, put a troubled season behind her with a powerful last lap to become the top qualifier for the final Sunday.

The stage also is set for Bolt, who's looking for atonement in Saturday's 200 final. He surrendered his 100 title not by getting beat but by jumping the gun. This time, someone may have to actually outrun him -- in his favorite event no less.

"If I get a good start and execute right, there's nobody to beat me because I'm one of the best," Bolt said. "I've got to be really out of shape for you to beat me."