ATHENS, Greece – Jeremy Wariner (search) picked up where Michael Johnson (search) left off as he became the sixth straight American to win an Olympic 400-meter title and led a U.S. sweep of the medals.
Wariner, 20, finished in 44.00 seconds — a personal best and fastest in the world this year. He crossed the finish line with his arms extended in victory, followed by silver medalist Otis Harris (search) (44.16) and bronze medalist Derrick Brew (search) (44.42).
The United States has dominated the event since 1984, winning 13 of the 18 medals in the last six Olympics. Americans also swept at the 1988 Seoul Games.
The three Americans hugged in the finish area, then began a slow victory lap with three U.S. flags.
"It means a lot. We all thought we could go out there and go 1-2-3. We did our best, we fought hard, and we all came out on top," Wariner said, showing no sign of emotion. "It hasn't sunk in yet."
Wariner has been tabbed the successor to Johnson, who ruled the 400 for more than a decade, still holds the world record of 43.18 and won gold medals in the 1996 and 2000 games. Wariner even has Johnson's old coach, Clyde Hart of Baylor.
"He won, that's all I care about," said Hart, who thought his days of coaching Olympic winners were done after Johnson retired. "He executed just like we planned it. It was the perfectly executed race. I thought I was through. I thought I could play a little golf and forget about all of this."
The United States has won 18 of the 24 times the event has been held in the Olympics, including four medal sweeps — 1904, 1968, 1988 and this summer.
Britain's Kelly Holmes held off three competitors, including defending champion Maria Mutola, to win a thrilling women's 800 in the closest Olympic finish in history.
Holmes, a bronze medalist at the 2000 Sydney Games, finished in 1 minute, 56.38 seconds — her eyes wide, mouth open and arms spread like wings as she crossed the line just ahead of Morocco's Hasna Benhassi and Slovenia's Jolanda Ceplak. Both were timed in 1:56.43, and it took a photo to determine Benhassi had captured the silver medal.
Mutola faded in the final few strides to finish fourth in 1:56.51. Jearl Miles Clark of the United States led for most of the race, but ran out of energy on the final stretch and finished sixth.
Hungary's Robert Fazekas won the discus with an Olympic-record toss of 232 feet, 8 inches (70.93 meters). Lithuania's Virgilijus Alekna, the defending champion, got the silver and Hungary's Zoltan Kovago got bronze.
Francoise Mbango Etone of Cameroon won the triple jump, followed by Hrysopiyi Devetzi of Greece and Tatyana Lebedeva of Russia.
Another Greek, Athanasia Tsoumeleka, got the crowd going early Monday, winning the 20-kilometer walk in 1 hour, 29.12 seconds. Olimpiada Ivanova of Russia won the silver in 1:29.16, while Australia's Jane Saville took bronze in 1:29.25.
In the women's 200, Allyson Felix is off to a much better start than at her last major international competition, the world championships last summer, where she barely advanced out of the first round and was eliminated in the quarterfinals.
Felix led three American women into the semifinals Monday, winning her heat in both the first and second rounds. She had the best time of 22.39 seconds in the first round and ran 22.69 in the second round.
Joining Felix in Tuesday's semis are U.S. teammates Muna Lee, who won her second-round heat in 22.74, and LaShaunte'a Moore, who placed fourth in her heat but advanced as one of the four fastest non-automatic qualifiers.
Also advancing were France's Christine Arron, who was eliminated in the 100 semifinals after being favored to win that race, and 44-year-old Merlene Ottey.
Marion Jones, the defending champion in the 200, dropped out before the second round at the U.S. Olympic trials last month and didn't qualify for the event.
In the 100-meter hurdles, world champion Perdita Felicien and two Americans reached the final, an event that lost Gail Devers to injury a day earlier.
Joanna Hayes won her semifinal heat Monday night in 12.48 seconds, while U.S. teammate Melissa Morrison was second to Felicien in the other heat in 12.53. Felicien, a Canadian who attended the University of Illinois, won that heat in 12.49.
Hayes, her sprained left ankle wrapped in tape wrapped to resemble the American flag, said she was running for fallen teammate Devers.
"I love Gail. I've known her for 10 years and I think Gail's a wonderful person," Hayes said. "I feel bad for her, my heart went out to her."
Devers, 37, lost her dream of finally winning a hurdles medal when she failed to clear the first hurdle in the first round Sunday because of a strained left calf. One of the greatest hurdlers of all time, Devers has Olympic gold medals in the 100 and 400 relay, but nothing from her signature event.
In the 400-meter hurdles, Americans Angelo Taylor, Bennie Brazell and James Carter all advanced to the semifinals. So did two-time world champion Felix Sanchez of the Dominican Republic, who has not lost in more than three years.