Harper Upsets Olympic Favorite; Wins Gold Medal In 100m Hurdles

Aug. 19, 2008

Alum Dawn Harper upset the Olympic favorite on Tuesday in the 100m hurdles final at the Beijing Olympic Games as she raced to the gold medal in a lifetime-best time of 12.54. Running out of lane five, Harper ran away to victory, defeating her nearast competitor by .10 seconds. Lolo Jones, the gold medal favorite, hit the ninth hurdle and stumbled to a seventh-place finish. Damu Cherry, the other American in the final, placed fourth overall.

Harper had looked incredibly strong and fast in the first and semifinal rounds and was on pace for a medal in today's final. With today's win, Harper joins Joanna Hayes (2004), and Gail Devers (1996) as Bruin Olympic gold medalists in the high hurdles. The win also marks the second straight Olympic Games in which a Bruin has won the gold medal in the hurdles.

'In the beginning, I did feel a little more jitters than I did in the first round,' said Harper. 'I had to kind of shake them off. I knew I needed to react to the gun, just focus on me and be quick and attack each hurdle.'

On winning being a surprise: 'I felt I was always capable if I focused on myself. But for others, yes.'

On Jones hitting the 9th hurdle: 'I felt something happen. I didn't know how serious it was. You have to focus on you because if I get caught up on her then who knows what happens to me.'

On Jackie Joyner-Kersee: 'She wasn't able to come to the Olympics this year, but she sent me an email telling me that you can do it and stay focused. It's about you. Run your race on that day and that time. Focus on you.'

Harper is coached by UCLA volunteer Bobby Kersee, one of the most prolific sprint and hurdle coaches in the world. Kersee also coached Kerron Clement to the silver medal in the men's 400m hurdles during the Games.

quotes courtesy USA Track & Field

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