LONDON – Dawn Harper didn't get the last inch she needed. Now the silver medal will have to suffice.
In a stunningly close finish in the women's 100-meter hurdles final, Australia's Sally Pearson nicked the defending Olympic gold medalist Harper by two-hundredths of a second for the win – 12.35 seconds to 12.37. The United States also took a bronze in the event, with Kellie Wells finishing third at 12.48. Lolo Jones finished fourth at 12.58.
The photo finish saw Harper close fast in the final two hurdles and nearly clip Pearson at the line. The finish was so close that both runners stood on the track afterward for nearly a minute, waiting for the official times to reveal the winner. When the final finish was shown on the giant video screen – in the middle of a smattering of rain – Pearson collapsed to her knees in joy, leaving Harper to shrug her shoulders.
"When I leaned at the [finish] line, I looked over and that's when I finally saw her," Harper said of Pearson. "And I was like, 'Did I sneak? Did I just sneak and get past her?' I looked up, and I actually realized I didn't win when I saw her fall to the ground. I was like 'Dang it, she's happy. She just won.' "
"12.37 is not bad. I cannot be mad. I enjoyed the whole process."
[ Photos: Women's 100-meter hurdle race ]
Pearson had a commanding lead going into the final two hurdles, with Harper, Wells, and Jones bunched in pursuit. Despite catching the edge of a hurdle in the final 20 meters, Harper managed to break out of the pack and inch closer to Pearson, finally tilting forward into the finish line. For a moment, it appeared Harper may have caught Pearson at the line, but the photo finish showed Pearson hit the line just inches ahead.
"I knew I needed a good a start – but didn’t quite get that," Harper said. "I just kept telling myself, 'You have to go to work.' I couldn't really feel anybody. I knew Kellie was right there, and I was like, 'I've got to get in front of Kellie.' Then I clipped a hurdle and I was thinking, 'Either you're winning by a lot because you can't see anybody, or Sally is so far ahead you just don't know where you're at.' "
"I just remembered thinking, 'You need to just lean.' And when I leaned is when I finally saw her."
The silver is Harper's second Olympic medal, along with her gold in the 100-meter hurdles in the 2008 Beijing Games. The bronze is Wells's first Olympic podium finish
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Unfortunately for Jones, it was heartbreak again. She came out strong, but began fading in the final four hurdles. This after she famously crashed in the 100-meter hurdle final in the 2008 Beijing Games, clipping the second-to-last hurdle as she appeared to be pulling away for gold. The mistake opened the door for Harper, who burst in for the win, while Jones finished seventh. It became one of the most replayed U.S. moments of the 2008 Games and would ultimately leave Jones without an Olympic medal.
The 12.58 "is my season best, so it's the best I can do this year," Jones said. "But obviously I’m crushed."
[ Related: Lolo Jones taken to task by NY Times writer ]
Jones had microsurgery on her spine in 2011, helping to repair issues that were causing numbness in her feet and toes. But her personal life – and Jones's constant willingness to discuss it – has been the enduring story around her since Beijing. In contrast, Harper has remained one of the world's best in the 100 hurdles, finishing with bronze at the 2011 world championships in Daegu, South Korea, behind America's Danielle Carruthers. Carruthers is not at these Olympics.
Harper and Wells qualified for the final by winning their semifinal heats, while Jones squeaked in as one of the at-large time qualifiers. It is the third 100-meter sprint that has seen the U.S. qualify three competitors, including the men’s and women's 100-meter finals. Carmelita Jeter took silver in the women's 100 while Justin Gatlin took bronze on the men's 100.
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