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Kirkland makes it a great day for the USA

Kirkland makes it a great day for the USA
Nick Davies for the IAAF

11 August 2001 - Not since the 1932 Olympic Games have the USA gone 1-2 in a major 100m hurdles final, but this afternoon, Anjanette Kirkland ran a world leading 12.42 to beat her compatriot, Gail Devers, a three-time champion. To add icing to the cake, the young Texan Jenny Adams, set a personal best of 12.63 to finish fifth, just 0.05 seconds outside the medals.

“I am so happy to see three Americans in the final,” said 34 year-old Devers after the race, “I remember 10 years ago when I was the only one around. Jenny has done so much for our event this year, and I really want to congratulate Anjanette Kirkland who has now won two world titles, although she has had a really tough year.”

Kirkland, who won here in lane 1, must enjoy the outside lanes as she won her world title at 60m hurdles in Lisbon from lane 8. “I didn’t care about the lane,” said Kirkland. “I focus on my race - I run from within myself. I don’t worry about people around me. All I can remember about the race other than hearing the gun and then crossing the line! I kept running past the line until I heard my name being called. All I had planned to do was come off the last hurdle fast, and that is what helped me win the race.”

Kirkland’s year has been marked by controversy. In January she was asked to leave the famous Coaching/Management group HSI [they handle Maurice Greene, Inger Miller, Ato Boldon among other] and subsequent incidents related to her departure have led to legal action. But despite having to look for a new coach, the 27 year-old won the Word Indoors in March, then started to get coaching advice from 1992 Olympic 110m hurdles silver medallist Tony Dees. But hampered by a succession of injuries, she struggled to qualify for the US team for Edmonton, clinching the last qualifying place, and then had to watch as Jenny Adams stole all the headlines with her barnstorming debut tour of Europe. Coming into the Championships, Kirkland’s seasonal best of 12.75 place her 10th in the world. But despite her problems, and the fact that all the Media attention was going to Devers and Adams, Kirkland believed in herself: “I have always seen this gold around my neck, even way back in Lisbon! I just placed my trust in God and asked Him to let me shine. This year I have had a lot of problems. But I am not a person for negative thinking. I wanted people to know me as a champion and I think I have shown everyone that I am a strong person.”

Kirkland’s season may have ended here in Edmonton, as the hurdler has been suffering from niggles to her neck and back and is not sure if her body can take the long distance flights to Europe and then Australia necessary if she is to contest what’s left of the season. “My chiropractor and masseur have been working flat out to get me through the rounds here. I’m going to talk to them now.”

For Gail Devers, 2001 has been a roller-coaster experience. She won the US Trials, but has also struggled since then with injuries. “I’m really looking forward to starting a season feeling healthy. But I’m satisfied with silver, especially since another American got the gold. In this calibre of race, I needed to have a clean race but I had a bad start then hit some hurdles and at the eighth, I kinda popped up in the air. After that, I just tried to hang on for second place. I’m happy with the medal.”

As for the youngest of the trio – Jenny Adams – she could put her fifth place into perspective. “Obviously I am disappointed, but this is all new to me. You have to get used to the special atmosphere of these major championships. I set a personal best and I’m really excited about going back to Europe. I really think I can run a good race in Zurich next Friday.”