World Track & Field Championships: The 10 Most Memorable American Medal Winners

Rashaad JordenContributor IIISeptember 4, 2011

World Track & Field Championships: The 10 Most Memorable American Medal Winners

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    The United States may not have been expected to win as many medals at this year's World Championships as they had been in previous years. But after a slow start, American athletes rebounded to win 25 medals in 2011 (twelve of them gold), tied for the second highest total for the U.S. in the history of the event.

    Here are the 10 most memorable medal winning performances from the recent World Championships in Daegu.  

Jillian Camerena-Williams Wins Bronze in the Women's Shot Put

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    Camerena-Williams hadn't reached the final in the two previous World Championships that she competed in, and she only finished 12th at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.

    But the Stanford graduate launched a 20.02m/65-8 1/4 throw in the fourth round of the final in Daegu, propelling her to second place at the time. Her performance ultimately landed her a bronze medal.

    Camerena-Williams became the first American woman to medal in the shot put in the history of the World Championships.

Jason Richardson Takes Home Gold in the 110-Meter Hurdles

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    Okay, he wasn't the first man to cross the finish line in the final of the 110-meter hurdles. He might not have not have even been the second finisher if Cuba's Dayron Robles hadn't obstructed China's Liu Xiang.

    Yet Richardson may finally be fulfilling his potential to be great. This potential was first displayed at the 2003 World Junior Championships, where he won both the 110-meter and the 400-meter hurdles.

    In Daegu, he let everyone know that he would be a threat to medal by blowing away the field in the semifinals with a time of 13.11, the fastest time during that round.  

Dwight Phillips Makes It Four

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    Prior to Daegu, Phillips wasn't enjoying the greatest of seasons—he didn't even reach the finals of the U.S. Championships in June.

    Fortunately for Phillips, he was the defending champion, so he didn't need to place in the top-3 in Eugene to qualify for the World Championships.

    Once in Daegu, Phillips showed why he's the greatest long jumper in American history not named Carl Lewis. Already a three-time gold medalist at the World Championships, the Georgia native fittingly received bib number 1111 for the competition.

    "When I saw that I had all number ones, I thought it was divine intervention," Phillips said. "I thought it was just meant for me to win my fourth world title."

    And the Georgia native did just that, leaping to 8.45m/27-8.75 on his second attempt in the final to fend off Australian Mitchell Watt, the 2009 bronze medalist and the world leader prior to the meet. 

Lashawn Merritt's "Virginia Shuffle" Saves Face for the U.S. Men in the 4x400

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    Seemingly at every Olympic Games or World Championships, the U.S. men are a lock to win gold in the 4x400. The last time the U.S. men failed to win the event at the Worlds was in 1991.

    But in Daegu, the U.S. seemed vulnerable, trailing for much of the first three legs in the final. When anchor LaShawn Merritt received the baton, the Americans were in third place.

    Still in third place with a hundred meters remaining to go, Merritt was slightly boxed in. But he then utilized a quick step he calls the "Virginia Shuffle" to storm past Jamaican anchor Leford Green and South African L.J. Van Zyl, giving the U.S. the victory and preventing a stunning upset.    

U.S. Women Get Best of Jamaica in the 4x100

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    The U.S. and Jamaican women have enjoyed a healthy sprint rivalry in recent years, and that has included the relays.

    The U.S. won gold at the 2007 World Championships in Osaka, while two years later in Berlin, the Jamaicans won gold while the U.S. dropped the stick in the first round.

    But in Daegu, once U.S. anchor Carmelita Jeter received the stick in first place ahead of Jamaica's Veronica Campbell-Brown, it was clear that this year's women's 4x100 would be a repeat of Osaka (where Jamaica also finished second).  

Carmelita Jeter Finally Wins a Title

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    Jeter has always been the bridesmaid of the 100-meter dash, having won bronze at the two previous World Championships.

    But the second fastest woman of all time put all together in Daegu, taking control of the final with about 35 meters to go, and winning with a time of 10.90.  

Youngster Matthew Centrowitz Takes Home Bronze in the 1500

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    Matt Centrowitz had enjoyed an outstanding season prior to Daegu, having won conference, NCAA, and national titles in the 1500-meter. But it remained to be seen how much the 21-year-old would have left in the tank for the World Championships following a long collegiate season.

    As it turns out, it was just enough. The University of Oregon runner was in sixth place entering the final turn in the 1500-meter final, but he stormed past three runners to become the youngest American to earn a World Championships medal in the event's history. 

Jessie Williams Breaks a U.S. Drought in the High Jump

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    The United States hadn't won a gold medal in the men's high jump at the World Championships since 1991—enter Jesse Williams. 

    Williams seemed like an unlikely candidate to break the drought. At the 2005 and 2007 World Championships, Williams failed to reach the final, and he didn't make the 2009 World Championships team after finishing fourth at the U.S. Championships that year. In addition, he didn't make the final at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.

    But Daegu represented a new era for Williams, and the former USC Trojan jumped 2.35 meters/7-8½ feet to edge Russian Aleksey Dmitrik on misses which helped him win an improbable gold medal. 

Jenny Simpson Stuns the Field to Win Gold in the Women's 1500

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    Jesse Williams definitely wasn't the only unlikely American gold medalist on September 1.

    Jenny Simpson was not expected to be a factor in the final of the women's 1500-meters because others such as defending champion (and author of the event's fastest time this year) Maryum Yusuf Jamal of Bahrain and American Morgan Uceny (the Diamond League leader) were in the field.

    Fortunately, Simpson happened to be in the right place at the right time in a crucial situation.

    With roughly 500 meters to go, Kenya's Hellen Onsando Obiri fell and and knocked Uceny to the track, killing any chance the American had of finishing on the podium. Meanwhile, Simpson avoided the collision, but was in fifth place at the start of the final turn. The former University of Colorado runner then turned on the afterburners to become the first American woman since Mary Decker Slaney in 1983 to win the 1500-meters at the World Championships.  

Christian Taylor Stuns Phillips Idowu to Win the Men's Triple Jump

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    Christian Taylor came to Daegu as a newcomer to the world scene. He left as a world champion.

    The 21-year-old Taylor jumped 17.96 meters/58-11¼ feet (the fifth best mark in history) in his fourth attempt of Sunday's final, stunning defending champion Phillips Idowu of Great Britain. 

    But he wasn't the only American—or University of Florida athlete—to make his mark in the event. 20-year-old William Claye jumped 17.50 meters/57-5 feet to claim the bronze.

    Taylor and Claye became the first American duo since 1991 (Kenny Harrison and Mike Conley in Tokyo) to medal in the same triple jump competition at the World Championships.