HELSINKI, Finland - At 5 feet 10 and 165 pounds, Joel Brown is not one of the bigger men running the high hurdles on the international circuit.
But he's as gritty as they come and concedes nothing to the taller hurdlers and those 10 unrelenting, 42-inch barriers he faces in his specialty event.
A career-best 13.22-second performance earlier this year was proof that the 25-year-old Woodlawn High and Ohio State alumnus had, indeed, arrived as an elite athlete, and his spot in tonight's semifinals of the 110-meter hurdles at the 10th world championships of track and field serves as Exhibit B.
Brown advanced to the semis with a 13.90 third-place performance in the face of a brutal, 1.8-meter-per-second wind lashing into every runner in the sixth and final opening-round race yesterday morning at Olympic Stadium.
"Over the first hurdle, the wind came so strong I thought I was about to fall," said Brown, now an assistant track coach at Ohio State who is competing in his first international championship.
"For a while, I thought I was out of the race, but I put on a surge and got through [to the semis]. Technically, I was out of whack. All I was trying to do was get to the finish line so I could make it to the next round.
"I just powered my way through. Hopefully, the next round will go better for me; hopefully, the weather will be better, too."
The 110 hurdles ranks as one of the most wide-open events on the world championships program.
An array of potential medal candidates is still in the running, and three of them are Brown's American teammates - two-time Olympic silver medalist Terrence Trammell, who ran 13.80 yesterday; Allen Johnson, the four-time world and 1996 Atlanta Olympics champion, who qualified in 13.92, and Dominique Arnold, 13.96.
Those that they will all have to beat include China's reigning Olympic champion, Xiang Liu (who ran 13.73 yesterday); China's Dongpeng Shi (13.80), Brazil's Redelen Dos Santos (13.74) and France's Ladji Doucoure (13.86).
Twenty-four hurdlers advanced to the semis, and they'll run three races tonight, with the top two in each section advancing to tomorrow night's final, along with the two fastest behind them.
Brown trailed only Cuba's Dayron Robles (13.83) and Latvia's Stanislav Olijars (13.86) in his qualifying heat.
Brown earned his first U.S. team uniform for this meet and calls the whole experience "definitely great."
"I've been here since the first [of August] and the people of Finland are very lovely people and they really enjoy the sport. Now, all I have to do is make the final."
James Carter, the other Baltimore runner on the U.S. team, happens to be Brown's roommate in the athletes' village.
Brown called Carter's silver medal effort in the 400 hurdles final Tuesday night "very inspirational," and then said: "I've got to get me a medal of my own."
Two other Americans won gold here yesterday - Tianna Madison in the women's long jump (22 feet, 7 1/4 inches) and decathlete Bryan Clay.
Clay added a world title to his Olympic silver, easily outpointing Olympic champion and world record-holder Roman Sebrle despite finishing last in the closing 1,500 meters. Clay finished with 8,732 points; Sebrle, of the Czech Republic, had 8,521.
Tonique Williams-Darling of the Bahamas fought back in the final 50 meters and swept past American Sanya Richards in driving rain to win the women's 400, adding to her Olympic victory in the event. Defending champion Ana Guevara of Mexico was third.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.