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US Track Runners Harper, Richards Reflect on Joy, Agony of Olympic Competition


Team USA has had mixed fortunes in athletics at the Beijing Olympics. Traditionally a power, the U.S. team has been struggling to match its success from prior Olympics. VOA's Jim Stevenson has more on two American runners who had very different experiences Tuesday on and off the track.

Dawn Harper was emotional after winning the women's 100-meter hurdles gold medal.

"You work so hard for it and for it to come true. And, to realize that it happened and you raced the best in the world," Harper said.

Just before the event, Sanya Richards was hoping to win gold at the 400-meter distance. Instead, she finished with a bronze.

"It just was not my time," she said, regretfully. " I had just a slight cramp in my right leg coming down the home stretch."

The two women typify the kind of experience the American runners have had in Beijing. In the first five days of Olympic track and field events, the United States has claimed just three gold medals.

Both women were awake for much of the night, following their race. Richards could not help but reflect on her performance.

"I think I probably slept maybe 30 minutes last night," she admitted. "I just kept asking why, what we could have done differently? And, so it was a really hard night. Every time I closed my eyes, I saw that gold slipping away."

Harper was having some difficulties too. But winning put her trials in a different light.

"I went to bed at 3:54 a.m. That was the last time I looked at my clock," she said. "And, I went back to my room and I was locked out of my room because the handle broke. That was a wonderful ending to a great night. So I had to sleep in someone else's room. But it was a wonderful night. It really was."

The U.S. team is hoping for more wonderful nights, as it trails a virtually insurmountable lead by host China in the overall medals standings. Athletics and other Olympic events continue through Sunday.

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