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U.S. wins women's discus; world record for pole vaulter Yelena Isinbaeva

August 18, 2008 |  7:48 am

Stephanie Brown Trafton spins her way to a gold medal in the women's discus at the Beijing Olympics. BEIJING -- Who would ever have thought that the first time "The Star-Spangled Banner" played at the Olympic Stadium during the 2008 Summer Games, it would have been for a women's discus thrower?

Even Stephanie Brown Trafton, who won the gold medal Monday night, was not aware of the last time that happened, even if she knew Lillian Copeland was the only other U.S. thrower to do it.

Copeland won at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics.

"I came to the Bird's Nest to lay a golden egg, and that's what I did," Brown Trafton said.

Then she added with a smile, "I've been saving that one."

Two hours later, 2000 Olympic champion Angelo Taylor of Atlanta led a U.S. sweep of the 400-meter hurdles, with Kerron Clement second and Bershawn Jackson third.

Taylor's winning time, a personal best 47.25, was the fourth fastest ever in the Olympics.  He matched Edwin Moses as having won two gold medals eight years apart.

Brown Trafton, 28, admitted that the gold actually was a surprise, but she came to Beijing with her eyes on being the first U.S. medalist since Leslie Deniz won silver in 1984.

The gold became possible with a little help from the sleuths who tracked down some devious Russians.

Darya Pishchalnikova, who had the world-leading throw, was among those Russians banned from the Olympics when international track federation officials found they had done urine substitution, apparently to beat doping control.

"That left the competition a little more open," Brown Trafton said.

Brown Trafton finished third in the Olympic trials, when her first of six attempts was the only fair throw.

At 6 feet, 225 pounds, she had once hoped to make the Olympic team in basketball, which she played at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo for a year and a half before tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in her knee.

As expected, Russia's Yelena Isinbaeva won her second straight gold medal in the pole vault. She had jumped only twice by the time everyone else was out of the competition, the last being Jenn Stuczynski, who won the silver medal at 15 feet, 9 inches.

Isinbaeva clinched her 14th straight victory in a major competition with her clearance at 15-11 when Stuczynski missed three attempts at 16-0 ¾.

The Russian went on to clear an Olympic record 16-2¾ before attempting a world record height of 16-6 ¾, a 1/4 better than her previous mark, set July 29 in Monaco. She cleared it, collecting her 24th world record in the event, the third set this season. Countryman Sergei Bubka totaled 35 world records in the pole vault.

-- Philip Hersh

Photo: Stephanie Brown Trafton spins her way to a gold medal in the women's discus at the Beijing Olympics. Credit: Adrian Dennis / AFP / Getty Images

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