A rare charmer, Carter on offensive in 400 hurdles
By Paul McMullen
SYDNEY, Australia - Four years out of Mervo High, James Carter yesterday
became the first product of a Baltimore-area high school to compete in Olympic
track and field since 1972.
He easily qualified for the semifinals of the 400-meter intermediate
hurdles and was to work in front of more than 100,000 people at Olympic
Stadium again tonight. Carter's race was held at 4:59 a.m. in Baltimore.
Carter was attempting to barrel his way into Wednesday's eight-man final
and add another chapter to an amazing life story. The 22-year-old pulled down
the top half of his singlet for members of the media to show the long scar
that runs down his chest, a reminder of the thymectomy he underwent as a
middle schooler to treat myasthenia gravis, a neuromuscular disease. Mervo is
only now building a track, and Carter said he wore spikes here that he bought
"It's interesting, having 100,000 eyes on you," Carter said. "You wonder to
yourself, `Am I going to be able to do my best?' You get a bunch of people
cheering you all the way around the track, that gets you pumped up and ready
to go. I trained to do this all year."
With his mother, Marilyn Knight, in attendance, Carter hoped to be one of
the eight men to qualify for Wednesday night's Olympic final. He ran in the
third of three semifinals, in Lane 3.
He handled three races in as many days at the U.S. Olympic trials in July.
His only competition since then was in an informal meet at an auxiliary track
here two weeks ago, but he looked sharp on a cold, gusty night reminiscent of
April at the Penn Relays. By the time Cathy Freeman and Michael Johnson
competed in the semifinals of the 400, there was a downpour.
Running in Lane 7, Carter needed only the first hurdle to catch Matthew
Beckenham, the Australian outside him in Lane 8. He was in command until he
had trouble on the second turn. Carter was passed by Hadi Souan Somalyi of
South Africa, but he was second in his first-round heat in 49.41 seconds, the
fastest time among the three-man American entry and seventh fastest in a field
of 62 men.
"Obviously, I got out good. I hit the sixth hurdle, sat down on it, and
that's a correctable mistake," said Carter, who was asked whether he would try
to conserve any energy in his semifinal. "I'm not saving anything. I'm going
all out from the gun to the finish line."
The fastest first-round qualifier was Zambia's Sam Matete, a four-time
Olympian who won the silver medal in Atlanta four years ago.