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Lame Showdown At Track Trials

The big buildup turned into a big bust.

In the most anticipated showdown in track and field in three years, Michael Johnson and Maurice Greene both pulled up lame in the final of the 200 meters at the U.S. Olympic trials on Sunday.

"It was painful when it happened," Johnson said. "It was one of the most painful I've ever felt. It was a severe cramp."

They met twice Sunday because both were in the same semifinal heat. They came back less than two hours later in the final but neither finished the race.

The injuries to Johnson and Greene means neither will run the 200 at the Sydney Olympics.

Johnson, however, has qualified for the 400 and will run the 1,600 relay, if he recovers.

Greene will be in the 100 and 400 relay, also if he is healthy.

The shocking developments involving Johnson and Greene, the world's two best sprinters, overshadowed some dazzling and unprecedented performances.

There was Stacy Dragila breaking her world record in the pole vault, soaring 15 feet, 2 1/4 inches. There was Gail Devers smashing her American record in the 100-meter hurdles in 12.33.

There was Marion Jones winning the women's 200 at 21.94, the fastest in the world this year, assuring her the opportunity to try for a record five gold medals at the Sydney Olympics. And there was the running Clark family Hazel, Jearl Miles and Joetta finishing 1-2-3 in the women's 800, all qualifying for the Olympics.

Going into the 200 final, Johnson was nursing a tender right quadriceps, but it was his left hamstring that forced him to quit about 80 meters into the race.

It was evident that when Johnson came out of the blocks, he wasn't healthy. He started much slower than usual, began slowing even more at 50 meters, then struggled another 20 to 30 meters before crumpling to the track.

He was removed from the track on a cart.

Greene began limping with about 100 meters left, grabbed for the back of his left leg, started to slow further and stopped shortly after.

He then walked toward the finish line, and had his left hamstring wrapped in ice.

The race, the final event at the trials, proved anticlimactic after much hype, which included as much trash-talking as has ever been seen in a track and field event.

The winner of the final was 1999 NCAA champion John Capel of Florida in 19.85 seconds, with Floyd Heard second in 19.88 and Coby Miller third in 19.96.

"I didn't know what had happened until I looked up at the screen and saw Michael lying on the ground," Capel said. "I hope he's all right for the Olympics.

"That's a terrible way to lose."

Greene was surprised that he got injured.

"I was coming up on the curve. I was running pretty good and my leg just grabbed," he said. "I'm disappointed I couldn't put on a show here for the fans. You have to listen to your body and I couldn't finish.

"I should be ready to go in about two to three weeks."

Jones had lots of sympathy for Johnson and Greene.

"I think it's frustrating for everybody," Jones said. "As an athlete I can sense their frustration because everybody knows I went down in Seville last year."

Jones crumpled to the track in the semifinals of the 200 at the World Championships in Spain.

"The fact that you have two of the fastest men in the world go down in that event and not make the Olympic team (in the 200) is hard," she said.

"It's unfortunate for everybody, but that's the way the U.S. trials go."

Sunday's first round went to Johnson. He finished second to Capel in the semifinals at 20.14, with Greene third at 20.30.

Recently, Greene had said, "Michael Johnson is a great athlete. If people call him Superman, well, I am Kryptonite."

Kryptonite wasn't good enough in the semifinals and came apart in the final. Superman didn't live up to his name in the final, either.

"Maurice had a lot to gain," Johnson said. "If he beats me, he's the new king. Everyone had a lot to gain but me."

Johnson thought that perhaps the near-100 degree heat caused his injury.

"The heat will, of course, do that. But I thought I was hydrated," he said. "It was disappointing. It was a goal of mine, but you can't have everything. I'll still represent my country in the 400."

This was their first confrontations since 1998 and their third and fourth overall, with them splitting the first two.

Johnson got hurt Saturday in his opening-round heat. After winning with the first-round's fastest time, 19.89, he complained of a cramp in his quadriceps coming off the curve, but said that it mostly disappeared down the straightaway.

Nevertheless, there was doubt whether he would run in the semifinals.

Coach Clyde Hart said it would depend on whether Johnson felt any pain during warmups Sunday. Hart and Johnson did not want to jeopardize the Olympic champion's chances of winning gold medals in the 400 and 1,600 by running with an injury.

Just like the warmups, the semifinal went well, although not as well as expected because of the surprise performance of the overlooked Capel.

As Johnson crossed the finish line, having beaten Greene, he smirked at his feisty rival.

He then went into the athletes' tent and packed his quadriceps with ice.

Leading up to the race, Johnson had said he was tired of what he called Greene's disrespectful and immature attitude.

The matchup attracted betting in a Nevada book and drew many responses from an internet poll conducted to determine a favorite. Johnson was the odds-on favorite in the betting and a huge choice in the poll.

Injuries and Capel undid both the bettors and the pollsters.

Not since Johnson's 150-meter match race against Canada's Donovan Bailey, the 1996 100-eter Olympic gold medalist, has there been so much hype for a track and field event.

That race also turned into a bust, as Johnson pulled up after about 70 meters with an injured right leg.

After Dragila smashed her record of 15-1 3/4, she tried to clear 15-5, but missed three times. On her second attempt, she barely brushed the bar on the way down.

Charles Austin, the 1996 Olympic gold medalist in the men's high jump, will return to defend his title after winning the national title for the sixth consecutive year. Austin cleared 7-7 1/4.

Devers broke her year-old record of 12.37 and became the fourth-fastest performer ever.

The world record is 12.21 by Yordanka Donkova of Bulgaria.

In the 800, 22-year-old Hazel Clark matched her career best of 1:58.97 in beating 33-year-old Jearl Miles (1:59.12) and 37-year-old Joetta Clark (1:59.49).

Joetta beat Meredith Rainey-Valmon by 0.01 seconds for the final spot on the Olympic team.

In other finals, 1996 Olympic gold medalist Allen Johnson won the men's 110 hurdles at 12.97, the fastest in the world this year; Mark Everett took the men's 800 at 1:45.67; Robert Howard won the triple jump at 55-9, and Adam Setliff took the discus at 209-10.

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