posted on Aug, 22 2004 @ 04:18 PM
Justin Gatlin ran the race of his life, barely holding off the fastest Olympic 100 field in history to win the gold in 9.85 seconds.
Francis Obikwelu of Portugal got the silver in 9.86 and defending champion Maurice Greene won bronze in 9.87. A third American, Shawn Crawford, was
fourth in 9.89.
Five runners broke the 10-second mark, and another -- world champion Kim Collins -- finished in exactly 10 seconds.
It was the closest finish in an Olympic 100 final since the 1980 Moscow Games, when Allan Wells of Britain held off Silvio Leonard of Cuba as the two
were timed in 10.25.
Gatlin finished the race with his mouth wide open, then dropped to his knees and clasped his hands in prayer. Then he jumped into the stands.
"I can't believe it happened. It was a very great race,'' Gatlin said. "I'm living the moment. The competition was stellar. I said it was going to be
the most exciting race in the world, and it was.''
It was the first time in Olympic history that five men broke 10 seconds in a race. Four did it at the 1996 Atlanta Games.
Gatlin, 22, won six NCAA titles in his two seasons at Tennessee, then won the 60-meter title at the world indoors championships last year. But he had
been overshadowed at the Athens Games by flamboyant training partner Crawford.
Crawford gave Gatlin a huge hug after his victory. Both are trained by Trevor Graham, the former mentor of Marion Jones and Tim Montgomery -- who
holds the 100 world record of 9.78, but did not qualify for the Olympics and has been charged with steroid use