RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) – For beating Allyson Felix, Shaunae Miller gets a gold medal. Maybe they should give her a cape, too.
It took a head-first dive, Superwoman-style, for Miller to spring an Olympic upset Monday over America’s top female sprinter in the 400 meters and deny her a record fifth gold medal.>>Watch Miller’s dive for gold
Miller, a 22-year-old from the Bahamas who finished second to Felix at the world championships last year, took an early lead, then held off her charge along the straightaway. Neck-and-neck with two steps to go, Miller sprawled, dove and tumbled across the line to win by .07 seconds.
Now, instead of a coronation for Felix, it’s a celebration for Miller, whose dive will go down as one of the most dramatic images we’ve seen at these, or any, Olympics.
“This is the moment I have been waiting for,” Miller said. “I just gave it my all.”
And she didn’t even get the evening’s biggest roars. Those went to pole vaulter Thiago Braz da Silva, who gave Brazil its first medal in track and field by setting an Olympic record (6.03 meters) to upset world-record holder and defending champion Renaud Lavillenie of France.
But outside of Brazil, they’ll be talking about The Dive.
Starting from Lane 7, Miller expanded the lag, instead of getting gobbled up the way most women do when Felix is on the track.
Stride for stride they ran down the last 100 meters, until the last few steps. Felix, classically 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.
“I was just focused on myself,” Felix said when asked about the dive. “I didn’t really have too many thoughts on it.”
As Miller lay on her back, gasping for breath and maybe even stunned herself at what she’d done, Felix sat on the ground stone-faced. Ten seconds passed. Then 20.
While Miller jumped with her arms flailing forward, 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. Her shoulder barely beat Felix to the line.
The result popped up on the scoreboard: Miller won in 49.44 seconds. The bronze went to Jamaica’s Shericka Jackson.
What a finish. What a race.
It marked quite a disappointment for Felix, whose season just didn’t turn out the way she planned it.
“I don’t think I ever quite had a year this tough,” Felix said, as her eyes welled with tears.
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: The 200 heats were scheduled for the same evening as the 400 final.
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 and her ankle swelled up like a balloon.
Suddenly, what once was a quest for two golds transformed into a struggle to simply make the Olympic team. She did in the 400 but not in the 200. Then, Miller showed up and handed Felix her third Olympic disappointment. This silver goes with the pair she won in 2004 and 2008 in the 200.
Even so, she became the most decorated U.S. female track star, with seven overall medals, including three in the relays.
But this was Miller’s night.
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.
A wild finish to a crazy night.
It began with a downpour that stopped action in all the events and put the DJ to work, playing “Singing In The Rain,” ”Umbrella,” and “I Can’t Stand the Rain,” among other fare, while the fans waited out the delay.
Those who stayed got their money’s worth.