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David Neville mixes sports to win medals

August 21, 2008 |  1:04 pm

David Neville gives his all to finish with the bronze medal in the men's 400-meter final.

BEIJING -- David Neville is a smart guy.  He knows it's safer to dive if there is water around.

The 400-meter runner from the University of Indiana dove for the first time in a race at the finish of the 1,600-meter relay at the 2007 Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro.  It was raining.

He did it again at the finish of the Olympic 400 final at the Bird's Nest Thursday night.  It had rained very hard an hour earlier.

"When you can slide, it does make the fall a lot better,'' Neville said with a big grin.

His belly-flops might not have done too well in the diving competition at the Water Cube, but they got what he wanted: a bronze medal here and a silver in Rio -- each by 0.04 of a second.

"Sometimes we have to sacrifice our body and mind and spirit for what we really want,'' Neville said.  "In a split-second, I said I have to dive in order to get a medal.''

Neville, a snare drummer in the IU marching band for two years, did a percussive number on his stomach.

"You get through the pain,'' he said, although getting up for the lap of honor with U.S. teammates LaShawn Merritt and Jeremy Wariner wasn't easy.  (Merritt won the race, with Wariner second.)

Nothing so dramatic should be necessary in Saturday's 1,600-meter relay final.  First of all, Neville won't be the anchor.  And the U.S. team should be so far ahead at the finish that Neville can get an early start on beating the drums in triumph.

-- Philip Hersh

Photo: David Neville gives his all to finish with the bronze medal in the men's 400-meter final. Credit:  Gero Breloer / EPA

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