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Philly's Nia Ali takes silver as U.S. women sweep hurdles

Associated Press

Updated: Wednesday, August 17, 2016, 11:33 PM

Nia Ali of Philadelphia celebrates with her son Titus after winning the silver medal in the women's 100m hurdles final on Day 12 of the Olympic Games on Aug. 17, 2016, in Rio de Janeiro.

RIO DE JANEIRO - Brianna Rollins, Philadelphia's Nia Ali, and Kristi Castlin finished 1-2-3 in the 100-meter hurdles Wednesday night in the Rio Games to give the United States its first sweep in the event and only its seventh in the history of Olympic track.

Gold medal winner Brianna Rollins, center, silver medal winner, Nia Ali, right, and bronze medal winner Kristi Castlin, all from the United States, pose with their country's flag after the 100-meter hurdles final,during the athletics competitions of the 2016 Summer Olympics at the Olympic stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2016. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
Photo Gallery: Philly's Nia Ali takes silver as U.S. women sweep hurdles

It was a not-all-unexpected result, though this might be an eye-opener: Both 2008 champion Dawn Harper-Nelson and the current world-record holder, Keni Harrison, were back home watching on TV after failing to crack the top three at the Olympic trials.

Rollins won the event in 12.48 seconds. Ali finished at second in 12.59, and Castlin in 12.61.

Ali, a former West Catholic and Pleasantville High athlete who won an NCAA championship at Southern California, clocked at 12.76 in her semifinal heat on Tuesday.

In a recent interview, Rollins, one of seven siblings, said her family didn't have much money when she was growing up, so they spent a lot of time playing outside.

"We were not fortunate enough to have all the electronics and toys," she said. "I hung out with my cousins and brothers. We'd climb trees, play basketball and football, and challenge each other to races."

She wound up getting a scholarship to Clemson, where in 2013 she won the NCAA indoor and outdoor titles. It was during that summer that she won the world title, ahead of Australia's Pearson and Great Britain's Tiffany Porter. She was, at age 21, the youngest woman ever to win that world title.

Elsewhere in track and field on Wednesday, Usain Bolt easily advanced to the 200-meter final. Kenya won yet another steeplechase gold medal, and Ashton Eaton was leading in the decathlon.

As usual, Bolt blasted away opposition in the semifinals of his favorite event, where he is seeking a third a third Olympic gold medal in a row to match his three 100 titles. This time, he will not have to deal with Justin Gatlin, so often his main challenger. The 100 silver medalist finished third in his heat and is out of the hunt.

In a game of cat and mouse, Bolt let Andre De Grasse remain on his shoulder right up to the line. But as they were laughing at each other, Bolt pushed his chest just across the line for 19.78 while De Grasse set a Canadian record of 19.80.

With temperatures reaching 97 degrees on the sun-baked track, Kenya organized a very orderly changing of the guard, with 21-year-old Conseslus Kipruto running away from two-time Olympic champion Ezekiel Kemboi to set a games record and extend the country's streak to nine straight titles in the 3,000-meter event.

Kipruto started celebrating coming into the home straight and, as he was flying over the last barrier, was looking behind to see if anyone was still coming. No one was, so he stretched out his arms and raised his fist in victory as he jogged across the line in a showboating extravaganza that would have made Usain Bolt proud.

"I watched the screen. I saw I was far from them, and nobody's going to catch me, so I celebrated early," he said.

It was his first gold medal following silvers at the last two world championships.

The excitement behind him centered on Evan Jager of the United States clinching silver ahead of four-time world champion Kemboi, who was later disqualified for stepping off the track after a water jump. At 34, Kemboi immediately indicated it was his last Olympic race, swiping his hand in a quitting gesture.

"It's my conclusion that today, this has been my last track [race] in my career," said Kemboi.

Mahiedine Mekhissi of France was later awarded the bronze medal.

Kipruto took the early lead and then settled behind Jager, surging back into the lead as the bell sounded and finishing in 8 minutes, 3.28 seconds. Jager was second in 8:04.28.

Despite Kenya's dominance in the event, Jager didn't want to over-state his best-of-the-rest status.

"It feels like silver, but I'm totally OK with silver," said Jager, the first American to medal was in the event since Brian Diemer in 1984.

Like Kenyans winning the steeplechase, the decathlon is equally predictable. But the quest to become the world's greatest athlete has recently turned into a question of whether Eaton will keep setting records.

Early Wednesday, he wasn't fastest out of the blocks, though. That honor went to Damian Warner of Canada, who beat Eaton in a 100-meter heat and set an Olympic decathlon best 10.30 seconds in the process.

Eaton immediately regained the lead with a mark of 7.94 meters in long jump, 27 centimeters more Warner. And he extended it in the shot put. After three events, he has 2,803 points and a sizable lead of 95 over Warner.

In the men's 5,000, defending champion Mo Farah was just as unworried about the time in his heat. Staying upright was tougher.

The British runner was tripped in the 10,000-meter race on Saturday but still recovered to win his second Olympic gold over that distance. His bid for a second-straight long-distance double faced another scare on Wednesday.

He had a slight trip after being clipped by another runner on the last lap of the 5,000 heats as well, but was quickly back into stride and ran comfortably with the leading pack to finish third in 13:25.25. Bernard Lagat of the United States also advanced.

"I've got such a long stride ... I always get tripped up or tangled up with someone," Farah said. "But I managed to stay on my feet. It's quite nerve-racking."

Associated Press

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