ATHENS, Greece – Joanna Hayes (search) screamed as she crossed the finish line of the 100-meter hurdles in Olympic-record time. About 90 meters behind her, world champion Perdita Felicien (search) lay flat on the ground, crying in disbelief.
Felicien got off to a bad start and stepped on the first hurdle, tumbling to the ground and taking Irina Shevchenko (search) of Russia with her. All Felicien could do was watch Hayes win in 12.37 seconds, breaking the Olympic record of 12.38 set by Bulgaria's Yordanka Donkova 16 years ago.
After the race, Felicien still couldn't believe what happened.
"I'm devastated," said Felicien, a Canadian who attended the University of Illinois. "I don't think this is going to sink in. I think it's going to take four years for it to sink in. I'm devastated. I was ready to run that race. I was ready to do this."
Olena Krasovska of Ukraine won silver in 12.45 and Melissa Morrison of the United States won her second straight Olympic bronze, in 12.56.
After the victory, Hayes fell to the track before running to the stands to accept congratulations and wrapping herself in the American flag.
"Going in, I felt I was going to run 12.37. I just did what I told myself I was going to do," Hayes said. "I worked hard to be at this point, and any given day I may lose or win a race. I'm not saying I can't be beaten, but tonight I'm the best hurdler in the world."
Before the race, it was Felicien who was ranked No. 1 in the world. She came into the race as the favorite after 37-year-old Gail Devers failed to make it out of her opening heat because of a strained left calf. During the semifinals Monday, Hayes dedicated the race to her fallen teammate.
Felicien walked on the track confident. She walked off in disgust, then sat on the track and watched with a grimace as Hayes and Morrison took their victory lap.
"The first hurdle came up and I reached for it way too much. I probably should have waited until the middle of the race to try to come back. I didn't have a great start and before I knew it I was on the ground and I could not believe it. There's no coming back from that," Felicien said.
The Russian Federation filed an unsuccessful protest after the race.
Hayes, a former long jumper, narrowly missed a spot on the 2000 Olympic team, finishing fourth in the 400 hurdles and fifth in the 100 hurdles. She finished second at the trials this year.
She became the second American to win the event since it went to 100 meters in 1972. That's one more medal than Devers, who has never won an Olympic medal in the event despite being considered one of the greatest hurdlers of all time.
"This is my vision to win the Olympic medal and break the record," Hayes said. "I wanted to win this."