Brigetta Barrett

The sensation Brianna Rollins

It's an unusual thing, indeed, when Usain Bolt storms to victory -- this time, in the 200 meters -- and he is not the star of the show on an action-packed night at the world championships at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow. That would be the new sensation of the women's 100 meter hurdles, Brianna Rollins of the United States, who -- in a race that many track aficionados had been looking forward to as the showdown of the meet -- came from behind to defeat the reigning Olympic champion, Sally Pearson of Australia.

Rollins' winning time: 12.44.

Pearson's: 12.5 flat.

14th IAAF World Athletics Championships Moscow 2013 - Day Eight

Ponder this:

Rollins has made herself, in one year, NCAA champion, U.S. champion and, now, world champion. She finished up at Clemson this spring. She turns 22 tomorrow. She has now won 34 straight races, including heats, across four different disciplines.

Rollins ran an American-record 12.26 to win the U.S. outdoors in June. That 12.44 is her third-fastest time of the year even though it was run into a slight -- 0.6 meters per second -- headwind.

"I'd call it a great year for me," Rollins said. "I'd call it a blessed year."

As Benita Fitzgerald Mosley, the 1984 Los Angeles Games 100 hurdles gold medalist, now the U.S. Olympic Committee's chief of organizational excellence, put it in a telephone interview, Brianna Rollins "is something else -- she really is."

As for Bolt, who had dropped a starting block on his foot in the 200 heats but then got himself taped up and ran, anyway:

Sitting in the blocks, now his style, he got off to the slowest start in the field but nonetheless, as usual, had the race won by the curve. He eased up and still finished in 19.66.

By anyone else's standards, 19.66 would be extraordinary.

For all the understandable to-do about what Bolt does in the 100, the 200 always has been his best event.

To show how he has re-ordered time: 19.66 is his 10th-best 200 mark. Of course he holds the world-record in the event, 19.19, set at the 2009 world championships in Berlin.

Jamaica's Warren Weir, the London 200 bronze medalist, took second, in 19.79.

American Curtis Mitchell prevented a Jamaican sweep by coming on hard in the final 50 meters, finishing in 20.04 for third.

This is how close it was for third: Jamaica's Nickel Ashmeade crossed in 20.05 for fourth.

It was the first time in 200 history that all eight guys went a wind-legal 20.37 or faster.

Some more facts and figures to underscore not only Bolt's place in the record books but his hold on the imagination:

-- He became the first to win the 100-200 sprint double twice at the world championships.

-- His third 200 worlds gold surpasses Michael Johnson and Calvin Smith.

-- He now has seven world gold medals to go with the six he has won at the Olympics. A presumed eighth, the 4x100 relay, is coming up Sunday.

Pearson came into the women's 100 hurdles after overcoming an early-season hamstring problem. She ran 12.62 in the heats, then threw down a 12.5 in the semifinal, the fastest qualifying time, signaling that she was indeed ready to go.

Make no mistake: Sally Pearson is a big-game racer.

Rollins ran 12.55 in the heats, 12.54 in the semifinals.

This would be, of course, Rollins' first major international final. Also in Saturday's final: Dawn Harper, the 2008 Beijing gold medalist and 2012 London silver medalist.

In the first half of the race, it looked as if Pearson might just pull it off.

Rollins reacted horribly to the gun, 0.263. Pearson, meanwhile, got off to a good start, 0.154, and led through the first few hurdles.

But Rollins eventually made her move, passing Pearson over the eighth and ninth hurdles.

With the victory, Americans won both the women's and men's sprint hurdles at the worlds for the third time; David Oliver won the men's 110 hurdles on Monday. Americans won previously in 1995 and 2001.

"Today I didn't have the best start but I didn't panic," Rollins said. "I was just focusing on my own lane and working hard, trying to finish strong. Today was about the victory, not about the time. The fast times will come. I have a huge respect for Sally Pearson. She is a great athlete and it was great to compete with her today. I was nervous but nervousness is normal. It's just about the way you handle it."

For her part, Pearson said, "Of course you are going to a race to win but I am satisfied. It is not gold but the best I could produce tonight. It was a hard year for me. In July, others were smashing me. Tonight I was only beaten by one. Next year, I won't be getting any silver!"

Great Britain's Tiffany Porter ran a personal-best 12.55 for third place, Britain's first women's 100 hurdles medal at a world championships. Harper took fourth in 12.59, with another American, Queen Harrison, fifth in 12.73.

"It was a horrible race, and I don't know what happened," Harper said.

In other action, the illustrious Meseret Defar of Ethiopia won the women's 5000 meters, in 14:50.19, the fastest time in the race at the worlds in eight years -- despite a last 200 meters run in a relatively pedestrian 29.43.

Defar is 5-foot-3, 92 pounds of tough. Her record:

Three Olympic 5k medals -- 2012 and 2004 gold, 2008 bronze.

Five worlds 5k medals, a record -- two golds, one silver, two bronze.

In her typically understated way, Defar said afterward, "It is a big achievement for me."

Molly Huddle finished sixth in 15:05.73, the best finish ever by an American.

The U.S. women's 4x400 relay team's world championship winning streak -- five -- came to an end. Russia won, in 3:20.19. The Americans -- running without the injured Allyson Felix -- took second, in 3:20.41. Great Britain came in third, in 3:22.61.

In the women's high jump, Russia's Svetlana Shkolina, the 2012 bronze medalist, took gold Saturday at 2.03 meters, or 6 feet, 8 inches. American Brigetta Barrett, the London silver medalist, took second again; she cleared 2.00, or 6 6-3/4, but not 2.03.

"Two silver medals in the course of 12 months -- it's been one heck of a year," Barrett said later.

Finally, this:

Kenya's previous best performance at the worlds in any field event had been 15th in the triple jump qualifying.

In the men's javelin, won by the Czech Republic's Vitezslav Vesley with a throw of 87.17 meters, or 286 feet, Kenya's Julius Yego took fourth. He threw a national-record 85.40, or 280-2.


Three U.S. golds, bang-bang-bang

DAEGU, South Korea -- An American woman hadn't won the 1500 meters at the track and field world championships since 1983. Those were the very first worlds, in Helsinki. And the winner of that race was the one and only Mary Decker. That's how long ago it was. In the high jump, an American man hadn't won a medal at these championships since 1991. Not just gold, any color. Twenty years.

An American woman hadn't won the 400-meter hurdles in 16 years.

Jennifer Simpson won the 1500, Jesse Williams won the high jump and Lashinda Williams the hurdles in bang-bang-bang fashion here Thursday night.

The rapid-fire string of victories, while cause for celebration in the American camp, pushing the U.S. into a tie with Russia for the lead for overall medals here in Daegu, with 12, also underscores the incredible conundrum that is the U.S. track and field program.

The United States produces, and keeps producing, world-class track and field athletes. But it does so in about as haphazard a way as one could imagine.

There is no bureau, no directorate, no anything responsible for finding, shaping, organizing a path from high school to college to the world championships to the Olympics. To generalize, it all kinda-sorta just happens.

That explains why, systemically, the United States of America can go 20 years without producing a medalist in the high jump. Why nearly 30 years can pass without a medal in the 1500, which is just astonishing. Anyone ever been to Boulder? Flagstaff? Mammoth Lakes?

There is no federalized sport system in the United States, and this is not to suggest there should be. Instead, the fantastic efforts of individual American athletes on a night like Thursday -- which tend to draw comparisons to the glory days of the U.S. track program -- obscure the structural problems that get in the way of what could be.

Because if the United States ever got serious, really serious, about winning in track and field -- watch out.

As it is, it's simply a matter of talent and moment.

The men's shot put here Friday night could be epic; of the 12 guys in the field, four are American. In the long jump, Dwight Phillips went a season-best 8.32 meters, or 27 feet, 3 3/4 inches, to lead everyone in qualifying Thursday morning; that final is Friday night, too. So is the women's 200; three of the eight in that final are American.

Meanwhile, the women's high jump on Saturday could be Brigetta Barrett's coming-out party on the world stage.

Talent and moment.

Simpson is a former steeplechaser. She used to be known as Jenny Barringer; she got married last year. She had the flu earlier this summer and came here with virtually no pre-race hype. In the semifinal, though, she showed was here to run. In the final, she ran easily and fluidly in and then kicked strong to the line, crossing in 4:05.40.

In the moments after she realized that she had won, Simpson looked simply stunned. Later, she asked rhetorically, "Wouldn't you be if you won a gold medal?"

She added, "I had another little Prefontaine moment," a reference to the 2009 Pre Classic in Eugene, Ore., when she was still in college at Colorado, and ran a 3:59.9 1500, breaking the NCAA record by more than six seconds.

"You know, I'm coming down the homestretch, and I'm thinking, 'How did I get here?' But it was just an incredible feeling, and I knew coming off the curve that I had another couple of gears and I thought, 'I'm going to be really hard to beat now.' "

Williams roared through the early rounds of the jumps without a miss. That proved critical.

Throughout, he knew what he was up against -- his own, and American, history.

These were his third world championships -- he had also competed in Helsinki in 2005 and Osaka in 2007 -- but the first time he had made a final. He is a self-styled high-jump history buff; he also knew full well that the last time Americans had medaled was in Tokyo in 1991, when Charles Austin won gold and Hollis Conway bronze.

Moreover, Williams came to Daegu as the presumptive favorite -- his jump earlier this year in Eugene, Ore., of 2.37 meters, or 7 feet, 9 1/4 inches, was the best anywhere.

Until he got to 2.37 here Thursday, Williams didn't miss; he was clean all the way to 2.35. Everyone else kept missing.

At 2.37, only he and Russia's Aleksey Dmitrik were left. By the time the bar was raised to that height, Dmitrik had already missed three times. Again, Williams -- zero.

If Dmitrik could clear 2.37, it would be a new game. But he couldn't.

Williams tried to clear but couldn't. No matter. The gold was his.

"I knew that 20 years ago, Charles Austin won it in Tokyo, and I knew that I could re-live what he lived, today," Williams said. "It's unbelievable, because the U.S. has so much talent in the event."

Dick Fosbury, the 1968 high-jump gold medalist who is now president of the World Olympians Assn., said in an e-mail, "This is fantastic news and I am so happy for Jesse," adding that he had been asked repeatedly recently about Russian jumpers and pointed out that the Americans, in Williams, had a guy who "could win this or medal."

He also said, "While we were disappointed in the Beijing results," Williams finishing 19th and not even making the final, "I really felt we could be back at the top by 2012. And now we are."

Demus, meanwhile, has been around for nearly a decade. She is a two-time world sliver medalist, in 2005 and 2009.

In 2007, she gave birth to twin boys, Duaine and Dontay. In winning Thursday in 52.47, she ran the best time in the world this year and broke the American record, 52.61, set by Kim Batten at the 1995 world championships in Gothenburg, Sweden.

Lashinda Demus had a ready answer for her success. "Only the strong survive in this game," she said, and there's no one stronger than her mother, Yolanda.

Yolanda Demus is a big fan of games such as Angry Birds. If you practice, Mrs. Demus said, you get better at them. So, she told her daughter, get out there and master the hurdles the way I have mastered Angry Birds.

You want a system? That's a system.

"She listens to every word I say," Mrs. Demus said. "That's one good thing about her. She listens."