MOSCOW (AP) — Over 10 hurdles, David Oliver had no trouble.
Stepping past a tiny steel beam jutting from the floor inside Luzhniki Stadium soon after winning a gold medal? Now that proved more difficult.
His trouble began after his nearly flawless 110-meter hurdles Monday night at the world championships. Oliver tripped and tumbled to the ground but quickly picked himself up and rubbed his stinging knee. His comic touch, however, was still intact: At least, he said, his misstep happened after the race.
For years, injuries have halted Oliver in the hurdles. For years, he’s struggled to find his rhythm. It all came together when he finished just ahead of teammate Ryan Wilson.
Had it not been for a trip over the final hurdle, defending champion Jason Richardson could have grabbed the last spot on the podium. But his stumble opened the door for Sergey Shubenkov of Russia to slip into the third spot — much to the delight of the Moscow crowd.
“This feels great, man, coming out here and finally performing well again,” said Oliver, a former football player at Howard University. “I was tired of being injured. I was tired of failing. I was tired of running like a donkey. It’s just not good when you’re not winning.”
Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce wouldn’t know anything about that, cruising to the women’s 100-meter title. The two-time Olympic champion is just as dominant these days as Jamaican teammate Usain Bolt.
Fraser-Pryce took off out of the blocks and there was simply no catching her. She finished in a world-leading time of 10.71 seconds to beat Murielle Ahoure of the Ivory Coast. Defending champion Carmelita Jeter of the U.S. finished with the bronze.
Wearing pink shoes and matching hair extensions, Fraser-Pryce was hard to miss. And given all her wins, it’s hard not to compare her to Bolt.
“I compare myself to nobody,” Fraser-Pryce said. “What Usain has, he has. What I have is hard work.”
Hard work has been Oliver’s calling hard. A calm injury hampered him at Olympic trials last season and prevented him from making the U.S. squad for London.
Oliver decided to do things differently. No more weightlifting for the big and strong hurdler. No practicing on Wednesday, either. And, above all else, no more than four or five reps at anything he does on the track.
“I hit the reset button,” Oliver explained. “With all those injuries, a lot of changes had to be made. Now, I can sit back and celebrate being a world champion.”
Oliver’s already off to a solid start in that department. He celebrated near the track with his mother, a former 400 hurdler who was an aspiring member of the U.S. track team in 1980 when the Americans boycotted the Moscow Olympics.
That made the moment all the more meaningful.
“Every race is always dedicated to my mom,” said Oliver, who won Olympic bronze at the 2008 Beijing Games. “She taught me everything I know. For them not to compete in the ’80 Games and she’s here in the stadium? Nothing better. Love sharing those moments with her.”
After lunging across the finish line, Oliver let out a loud scream. All those injuries and all those setbacks seemed gone. Wilson sauntered up to congratulate his teammate. Then Oliver suddenly noticed on the scoreboard that Wilson, not Richardson or Olympic gold medalist Aries Merritt, was on the podium with him.
“He goes, ‘Oh, I didn’t know it was you.’ He was so excited,” Wilson recounted. “I couldn’t have lost to a better competitor.”
In other finals Monday:
—Valerie Adams of New Zealand became the first woman to win four straight individual world titles.
—Christine Ohuruogu of Britain leaned at the line to finish off a great comeback in the 400 and beat defending champion Amantle Montsho of Botswana by .004 seconds.
—Raphael Holzdeppe of Germany captured the pole vault.
—Pawel Fajdek of Poland won the hammer throw.
Unlike Ohuruogu in the 400, there was little drama in the 100 given Fraser-Pryce’s fast start. She opened quite a big lead, pumped her arms down the track and then pumped her fists after her finish.
“I was completely in that zone,” Fraser-Pryce said. “I didn’t let any distractions get in.”
The Jamaicans are now 2-0 in the sprint rivalry against the Americans.
With three more medals Monday, the Americans increased their overall lead to six for the championships. It could have possibly been more, with Brad Walker (pole vault), Michelle Carter (shot put), English Gardner (100) and Richardson all finishing fourth.
“I was going so fast that that I turned on the boosters and the jet fuel,” Richardson said. “I did whatever it took to try and get back in it. I made a great burst of speed, but my hurdle technique couldn’t support it.”
Oliver’s technique is like this: He attacks hurdles like a football player would, trying to clear them and punish them at the same time. It works. The hurdles almost bow in fear when the 6-foot-2, 205-pound Oliver comes barreling by.
Steel beams? That’s something he still has to work on.