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World Championships:

U.S. Women Strike Gold
Mantia wins another; Colombia has big day

By Robert "Just the Factoids" Burnson
Monday, Aug. 20, 2007

Hawking for the Win

At the Line - Sara Sayasane (second from right) hawks for the win in the women's 3000-meter relay. (Photo: Alexander Bont)

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The U.S. women won their first medal of the 2007 World Championships today with a dramatic win in the 3000-meter relay.

The U.S. team of Brittany Bowe, Heather Richardson and Sara Sayasane led for much of the race but were pursued relentlessly by the Colombian, Korean and China-Taipei women.

A few laps from the finish, the Taipei skater attacked and took the lead. But it didn't hold as first Colombia and then USA fought back.

On the final relay tag, Sayasane of Milpitis, CA, shot into first place and grabbed a lead of several meters. She appeared to be on her way to the gold, but on the backside of the 200-meter track, Colombia's Briggitte Mendez caught her.

Mendez Passes Sayasane

Battle - Colombia's Briggitte Mendez goes by USA's Sara Sayasane at the start of the final turn.

At the start of the final turn, Mendez and the Taipei skater passed Sayasane on the inside. At that point, Sayanase's chances looked dim. But suddenly, near the end of the turn, Mendez moved slightly to the outside. That gave Sayasane just enough daylight to slip past her on the inside and rocket into the lead.

Mendez fought back in the final furious yards and again caught Sayasane. The two women sprinted side-by-side to the finish line. At the last moment, they hawked, thrusting their forward skate toward the line. Sayasane got there first, by inches; then shot her arms up into the air in celebration.

Protest

The Colombian team lodged a protest against Sayasane, claiming she interfered with Mendez on the final turn. Video of the race seems to confirm that the U.S. skater touched Mendez before she went around her. But after reviewing the tape, officials ruled that Sayasane had done nothing wrong and certified USA as the winner.

Nonetheless, the crowd in Cali booed the U.S. team on their victory lap, apparently still upset about Sunday's 1000-meter race in which Bowe appeared to bump Mendez.

Big Day for USA

The women's gold capped USA's best day so far at the World Championships in Cali, Colombia. In all, U.S. skaters won four medals, including two golds. That equals the number of medals the team won during the first two days of competition. Aside from the women's relay, USA won gold in the men's 500 meters, silver in the junior men's 500 meters and bronze in the junior women's relay.

USA's Joey Mantia won the men's 500 meters with another of his wire-to-wire victories. He never allowed himself to be passed and powered ahead in the sprint to claim his third gold of the championships.

Itay's Luca Presti was in second place, just ahead of Taipei's Wie-Lin Lo and France's Julien Despaux. But Presti fell. After a meeting of the officials, he was awarded third place while Wie-Lin Lo was disqualified

USA's Chad Horne won his first medal of the World Championships with a silver in the the junior men's (under 18) 500 meters. The U.S. junior women's team of Alexandra Harris, Briana Kramer and Mariah Richardson claimed the bronze in the 3000-meter relay.

Medal Ranking

Despite having its best day yet, the U.S. team couldn't pick up any ground in the medal rankings. Leaders Colombia and South Korea both collected five medals a piece, to keep far ahead in the medal count.

Colombia won two golds (women's and junior men's 500 meters), two silvers (women's and junior women's 3000-meter relay) and a bronze (junior men's 500 meters). After three days of racing, it now has 19 medals — and continues to lead in the medal count.

South Korea, the new skate powerhouse, had a relatively lackluster day. After winning four golds Sunday, it could only manage one (junior women's 500 meters) today. But it also collected one silver (women's 500 meters) and three bronzes (men's and women's 3000-meter relay and junior men's 500 meters).

Another emerging skate power appeared to announce itself today: China-Taipei collected two gold medals, winning both the men's and junior women's 3000-meter relay.

Last year, Taipei manged to win only two bronzes at the World Championships. But today, aside from winning two events, they contended in all the relays and had a skater in the finals of the 500 meters.

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Copyright 2007 by Robert Burnson

 

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