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August 25, 2009

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US signs off with final-day heroics

WITH Usain Bolt no longer running on the final day of the championships, the United States finally took over.

With gold medals from the men's and women's 4x400-meter relay teams and another from Brittney Reese in the women's long jump, the United States edged Jamaica to become the most dominant nation of the 2009 world championships in Berlin.

A second gold medal for relay runners LaShawn Merritt, Kerron Clement, Allyson Felix and Sanya Richards finally broke the tie with Jamaica, which only added one silver on Sunday.

The breakthrough came in the women's relay, where Richards and Felix were too good for an out-of-breath Jamaican team.

"It was incredible," Richards said. "My teammates were phenomenal."

Merritt followed it up by anchoring the US men's team to victory.

"Championships are all about getting the medal," said the men's 400 champion, who won the same two golds as at the Beijing Olympics last year.

In the final medal standings, the US had 10 golds and 22 overall, with Jamaica second on seven gold and 13 overall.

"We did an awesome job," Jamaican relay runner Novlene Williams-Mills said after collecting silver in the women's 4x400. "It's nice to bring Jamaica the last medal of the championships."

Bolt won three gold medals in Berlin, cementing his place as by far the biggest star of the championships after he set stunning world records to claim the 100 and 200 titles and also won the 4x100 relay. He only had one explanation why an island nation of 2.8 million could challenge the US team in the medal standings.

"We're determined, that's why we're so good," Bolt said. "And Jamaica is wonderful."

The US also got a surprise individual gold from Reese in the woman's long jump. She beat defending champion Tatyana Lebedeva of Russia with a jump of 7.10 meters. Reese's victory came one day after American teammate Dwight Phillips won the men's long jump.

Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia also got his double, edging defending champion Bernard Lagat in a tight 5,000 decided by the Olympic champion's famed finishing kick.

He won both 5,000 and 10,000 races at the Beijing Olympics and extended his reign after first containing a Kenyan challenge in mid-race before withstanding a desperate sprint finish of Lagat.

Rarely has Bekele been so obviously elated, slapping his chest with an open hand and showing a beaming smile as he made it clear that others may challenge, but not conquer.

"It was a very hard race," Bekele said after becoming the first Ethiopian man to win a 5,000 world championship gold. "I'll never forget this race."

Yusuf Saad Kamel's bid to match Bekele with a middle distance double failed as the 1,500 champion finished third in the 800 after a win for South African Mbulaeni Mulaudzi.

Defending champion Alfred Yego of Kenya was second and Kamel third, both given the same time of 1:45.35.

Mulaudzi's win gave South Africa an 800 double after teenager Caster Semenya won the women's race earlier in the week hours after the IAAF announced she was undergoing gender verification tests.

Maryam Yusuf Jamal crossed the line second in the women's 1,500 but retained the title after race winner Spaniard Natalia Rodriguez was disqualified for pushing over Ethiopian favorite Gelete Burka.

Norway's Andreas Thorkildsen won the men's javelin with an 89.59 throw.


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