U.S. Women Make 100-Meter Hurdle History

Hurdles Sweep  Reuters

Lest there be any doubt, the Americans own the women's 100-meter hurdles, sweeping the Olympic podium for the event for the first time in U.S. history.

Brianna Rollins, Nia Ali and Kristi Castlin, who described themselves as a "dream team" coming into these Games, went 1-2-3 in the final, with Rollins crossing in 12.48 seconds.

It was a triumph for the U.S. women, who have historically been the best in the world at the short hurdles but have been felled by mishaps and trips over the years. Last year, the U.S. women held six of the top 10 fastest times run in the world but were shut out of the medals at the world championships.

"You really can't take anything for granted out here. These women work so hard and there's always a lot of upsets," Ali, the silver medalist, said. "You can't just say I ran a fast time so for sure this is going to happen for me. I mean the world record was run right after our trials."

That world record holder is fellow American Kendra Harrison, who broke a 28-year-old mark in the event last month, less than two weeks after finishing sixth in the U.S. Olympic trials and out of a qualifying spot for Rio. Harrison said after her world-record race that she was happy to come back "with a vengeance," if she couldn't be at the Olympics.

The women said they owed their success to a sense of sisterhood and teamwork they used to approach the event.

"My thing wasn't so much a bronze for myself but upholding it for the team," Castlin said. "Track and field, a lot of times people come into it as individuals and we had a different perspective. We came in and did it for girl power, for the U.S.A., so we were actually able to do a first sweep in U.S. history."

The women's result partially made up for that of the U.S. men, who were shut out of the medals in the 110-meter hurdles for the first time in a nonboycotted Olympics.

The finals on Wednesday evening were an all-women's affair, with new champions crowned in the 200 meters and long jump as well.

Elaine Thompson of Jamaica became the first woman since Florence Griffith-Joyner in 1988 to win the 100- and 200-meter titles at the same Olympics, defeating reigning world champion Dafne Schippers of the Netherlands in 21.78 seconds. Tori Bowie of the U.S. took the bronze, to add to her silver from the women's 100.

Underscoring the effort it takes to complete the sprint double, Bowie said, "I didn't know what I got myself into."

In the women's long jump final, the U.S. went 1-2, with reigning world champion Tianna Bartoletta edging the defending Olympic champion Brittney Reese for gold with her fifth jump of 7.17 meters. No woman has ever successfully defended their Olympic title in the event.

Bartoletta said there was no time for celebration for her first Olympic gold in the long jump, as after the result was posted, her mind shifted to the women's 4x100 meter relay.

"My next thought was, I have to be back in the morning for the relay," she said. "I have one more job to do for my country."

Between events, the men's 200-meter semifinals proved dramatic, with Andre De Grasse challenging Usain Bolt to a duel over the final meters, when Bolt typically slows to a jog to conserve energy for the final. The result was a jovial exchange between the two across the finish, with Bolt breaking into a smile and enveloping the young Canadian in a one-armed hug.

But both runners said they preferred not to run so fast for a semifinal. Bolt clipped De Grasse, 19.78 to 19.80.

De Grasse, the bronze medalist in Sunday's 100 meters, said the sprint was part of a strategy. "My coach told me to race him to the line, tire him out for tomorrow's final," he said.

Bolt said that fast semifinal or not, he thinks he can break his world record of 19.19 seconds.

One obstacle he won't have to face toward the second of his triple-gold attempt in Rio will be Justin Gatlin, who surprisingly failed to advance to the 200 final and chalked up his result to an aggravated ankle injury. LaShawn Merritt will be the lone American in the race.

Write to Sara Germano at sara.germano@wsj.com and Joshua Robinson at joshua.robinson@wsj.com