OSAKA, Japan -- James Carter couldn't get out of Nagai Stadium fast enough.
Frustrated and irritated by his fourth-place finish in the men's 400-meter hurdles final at the track and field world championships yesterday - a race he knew he could win, if the breaks went his way - he stormed off the track, barged over a barrier to detour past the media, grabbed his gear, and headed out of the stadium.
A reporter was barely able to catch up to him as he left.
"I was hit," the Mervo graduate at last said.
"By the Polish guy [Marek Plawgo] going over the [10th and last] hurdle. He got me on the arm, and that's all it took.
"My stride pattern was gone, everything was gone."
Most important, an invitation for the medals ceremony today was gone, too.
No fouls were called and the results stood as posted. Kerron Clement of Gainesville, Fla., put another gold medal in the U.S. column with a 47.61 triumph; Felix Sanchez of the Dominican Republic, the reigning Olympic champion and two-time world champion, was second in 48.01; and Plawgo was third in 48.12.
Carter, 29, struggled the final meters off stride to finish fourth in 48.40, a time he has bettered dozens of times in an illustrious career since he left Hampton University as an NCAA bronze medalist in 1998. Fifth-place Danny McFarlane of Jamaica was right behind, in 48.59.
After a false start was called on Sanchez, the race was restarted. Carter was in front by the first hurdle and stayed ahead for more than half the race, when Clement surged into the narrow lead.
It was still anyone's race to win or lose over that last barrier - until the run-in.
The 47.72 Carter ran to win at the U.S. nationals in Indianapolis had been the fastest time in the world this year. Now, it's pushed back to second by Clement's 47.61.
And another chapter was added to the Baltimore athlete's saga of near misses. It was his third fourth place in a major global event.
The first time was his 48.04 at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. Llewellyn Herbert of South Africa took the bronze in 47.80.
His next fourth place was the 48.58 he ran at the 2004 Athens Olympics. Nama Kelta of France was third in 48.26.
Carter reached a worlds medal stand in 2005, taking the silver in Helsinki, Finland, with a 47.43, which remains his personal best.
A third big-time fourth place, of course, is not the end of the world, but the memories of this one will be difficult for him to shed.
Clement, who was born in Trinidad, made no mention of Carter at a post-race news conference. "I'm really thankful to come here and win a gold medal against the best, Felix Sanchez," he said.
Added Plawgo: "It's a great honor to be here with you guys; Felix is my hero."
Carter will resume competition on the European Golden League circuit that runs through mid-September.