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Four years later....

July 2, 2008 |  7:40 pm

Joanna Hayes EUGENE, Ore. -- Winning an Olympic gold medal doesn't guarantee a happily-ever-after.

Just ask Joanna Hayes of Los Angeles, who set an Olympic record in winning the 100-meter hurdles championship at the Athens Games but has struggled to return to that level.

Since 2004, she has battled a succession of injuries, including a chronic hamstring problem and what she called a fluke accident at practice one day in 2006 that left her with torn ligaments, a bone contusion and swelling.

"I heard all the things you don't want to hear when they came back with my MRI results," said Hayes, a 1999 UCLA graduate.

She has been fitter lately, winning the hurdles at the Prefontaine Classic at Hayward Field in early June in a wind-aided 12.53 seconds in

addition to wins at New York (12.64) and in Jamaica (12.72). She will face a tough field when the Olympic trials 100-meter hurdles qualifying begins Saturday, but she's simply happy to be here.

"It's been a pretty bad last couple of years and this year I just tell myself you're going for something important, trying to defend my title," she said. "It's never been done before. If I can do it, it would be just awesome.

"But at this point I'm going for it all. I'm here and that's a lot more than I can say the past couple of years. I'm just happy I'm here and I'm thankful to God that he's brought me here."

Qualifying for the men's 110-meter hurdles will also begin Saturday.

--Helene Elliott

Photo: Joanna Hayes at Wednesday's news conference. Credit: Kirby Lee / Image of Sport-US Presswire