RIO DE JANEIRO - Tianna Bartoletta kicked off her country’s whirlwind run of medals on the night. So, by all rights, she should get to name it.
Fittingly, the newly-crowned Olympic long jump champion went with “Awesome Hour.”
In a span of about 60 minutes Wednesday night, U.S. athletes hauled in a bevy of medals: Bartoletta and Brittney Reese went 1-2 in the long jump, Tori Bowie captured a bronze in the 200 and Brianna Rollins, Nia Ali and Kristi Castlin swept the medals in the 100-meter hurdles - a feat that’s never been accomplished in that event.
A banner evening, for sure. The nation entered the night with 13 medals and left the track with a total of 19 -- five gold, seven silver, seven bronze.
“It was an awesome hour,” Bartoletta said.
She started things off by unseating Reese, the defending Olympic champion, in the long jump. Moments later, Bowie won her second medal in Rio by taking bronze in the 200 meters. Not long after that, the hurdlers made history. This was the seventh medals sweep by the U.S. track team in the Olympics and the 23rd for U.S. women in the history of the Summer Games.
And yes, they realized what their fellow Americans were up to. Ali watched Bowie, her suitemate in Rio, bring home another medal as the hurdler waited to take the track.
That fired Ali up. And then her hurdles teammates did the same thing.
“They smiled at me and were like, ‘It’s time. Do your part,’” Ali said. “I need to go out there and do my part. For Team USA, I knew it would be a great thing.”
How about this for an early birthday present: About an hour after the race Rollins turned 25.
“I tried to feed off all the positive energy from Team USA,” Rollins said. “We were able to come out here and fulfill our dreams. It was an amazing opportunity. I was trying to enjoy each and every moment. I’m just happy to share the moment with Kristi and Nia.”
And to think, the evening got off on the wrong foot when Justin Gatlin surprisingly went out in the semifinals of the 200.
There went a good shot at an Olympic medal. There went another showdown with Usain Bolt.
An ankle injury hampered the 34-year-old Gatlin, who won a silver medal Sunday in the 100.
“For me, it has been an honor to be able to come out here,” Gatlin said. “At the end of the day, seeing all of these young guys and young ladies out here doing a great job, it’s an honor to be able to be a part of the team and run for my country.”
Earlier in the day, Evan Jager earned silver in the 3,000-meter steeplechase -- America’s first medal in that event since 1984. A hint of things to come.
“Every single time I saw someone on the (medal) stand, I tried not to get emotional,” Castlin said. “I was like, ‘I could get on the stand.’ It always feels good to see your teammates doing well.
“We’re from all different states and universities. It feels good to come out and do a great job.”