U.S. finishes on top of the World Relay wins cap golden showing for Americans TRACK AND FIELD

STUTTGART, GERMANY — STUTTGART, Germany -- The United States won the men's 400-meter relay yesterday with a comb sticking out of the leadoff man's hair. It won the men's 1,600-meter relay with a world record polished off by the fastest 400 meters ever run. It won the women's 1,600-meter relay easily and lost the women's 400-meter relay to Russia by an inch, maybe less.

Noureddine Morceli of Algeria won the men's 1,500 meters and Javier Sotomayor of Cuba the men's high jump, reaffirming their status as world-record holders. A Chinese, Liu Dong, won the women's 1,500 meters, giving her nation a sweep of the three longest races for women.


So ended the World Track and Field Championships, a nine-day extravaganza dominated from the start by Americans. They finished with 26 total medals, equaling their output in 1991, the last time these championships were held. They won 30 track and field medals in last year's Barcelona Olympics.

Here, the medal leaders were the United States with 26 (13 gold, seven silver and six bronze), Russia with 16 and Britain and Kenya with 10 each. The gold-medal leaders were the United States with 13, China with four and Russia, Britain and Kenya with three each.


Enough figures. Back to the errant comb in the hair of Jon Drummond, the American leadoff runner in the 400 relay. The American team of Drummond, Andre Cason, Dennis Mitchell and Leroy Burrell led all the way, and they were 8 meters in front until Burrell had to slow to take the baton from Mitchell.

Down the stretch, Burrell yielded nothing to Linford Christie of Britain, the 100-meter champion here, and beat him by 3 meters. The Americans' time of 37.48 seconds was slightly slower than their semifinal time Saturday of 37.40, which equaled the world record.

After the final, Drummond was asked about the comb.

"When I saw yesterday's race on TV," he said, "I saw my hair was wild. So I brought out the comb in my bag just to comb my hair before the race. I meant to put it in the basket behind me. It was force of habit to leave it in my hair. I'm very embarrassed.

"But it proved one thing: I'm capable of running with a comb in my hair. I think now that the youth of America will start practicing with a comb in their hair. And I'm going to get a comb commercial."

Drummond was laughing as he said that. He is a 24-year-old free spirit from Philadelphia, and that free spirit spilled over after his gold-medal race. He climbed into the stands and waved his arms. He ran into the pole-vault pit and did front flips and back flips. He climbed onto a starting block. Later, he sprayed the British runners-up with water. Colin Jackson of Britain, the hurdles gold medalist and a recipient of Drummond's spraying, said Drummond's enthusiasm was wonderful.

"Track and field is entertainment for the crowd," Jackson said. "They're just Americans. We're used to it."

Burrell said he was satisfied with the day's work.


"I think we were victims of our own success yesterday," he said. "We all pressed, but we still ran fast. Hey, 37.48 isn't a walk in the park."

The men's 1,600-meter relay was a lot more than a walk or a run in any park. There was little doubt the Americans would win, only if they would break the world record of 2 minutes, 55.74 seconds they set in winning the gold medal in the Barcelona Olympics.

The Americans broke it by almost a second and a half, running 2:54.29. In 86-degree heat that was good for sprinters, they won by almost 50 meters, an unheard-of margin at this level of competition. They did it with a team of Andrew Valmon (44.5 seconds), Quincy Watts (43.6), Butch Reynolds (43.23) and Michael Johnson (42.94). Johnson's split was the fastest ever, bettering Watts' 43.1 in Barcelona. The American team there was Valmon, Watts, Johnson and Steve Lewis.

The victory was doubly sweet for Reynolds. In 1990, the International Amateur Athletic Federation, the sport's governing body, suspended him for two years, saying a urine test showed he had used illegal body-building drugs. Reynolds denied it, sued the IAAF in a U.S. Federal Court and won a $27.3 million judgment (which he has not collected).

Primo Nebiolo of Italy, the IAAF president, became Reynolds' mortal enemy. But here, in the medals ceremony, they almost became friends.

Lamine Diack of Senegal, the IAAF's senior vice president, presented the gold medal to the first three Americans on the stand. The fourth was Reynolds, and he was so fired up that he jumped down to get closer to the action. Nebiolo motioned him to climb back, which he did. Then Nebiolo placed the medal and its chain around Reynolds' neck, said a few words to him and kissed him on both cheeks.


What did Nebiolo say?

"He said, 'You are very strong,' " Reynolds said later. "It made me feel real good. Off the track and on the track, I feel like a complete man now. I think I have his respect as an individual and as an athlete."

In the women's 1,600-meter relay, the United States beat Russia by 11 meters in 3:16.71, a meet record. Running for the Americans were Gwen Torrence (49.0), Maicel Malone (49.4), Natasha Kaiser-Brown (49.48) and Jearl Miles (48.78).

That race was no contest. The women's 400-meter relay was a contest to remember. Michelle Finn, Torrence and Wendy Vereen ran the first three legs for the Americans, and when Gail Devers got the baton for the anchor leg she was even with Irina Privalova of Russia. Devers, the 100-meter champion here, edged ahead, but Privalova caught her with 6 meters to go.

They lunged for the finish, and it looked like a dead heat. Indeed, both teams were timed in 41.49 seconds, a meet record. The finish photo showed the Russians had won.

"We got an American record," Devers said. "We can't be upset about that."


Those four relay medals -- three golds and a silver -- were all the United States collected in the day's nine finals. The capacity crowd of 52,700 at Gottfried Daimler Stadium watched Morceli BTC take the lead in the 1,500 with 440 meters to go and win comfortably in 3:34.24.

In the high jump, Sotomayor won at 7 feet, 10 1/2 inches and then missed three times at 8 feet, 3/4 inch, a quarter-inch higher than his world record. Hollis Conway, the American expected to win a medal, finished fifth with 7-8.

All in all, the Americans were happy. As Ernie Gregoire, their women's coach, said: "I'm looking forward to the future of United States track and field."