Former South Carolina hurdlers Lashinda Demus and Jason Richardson claimed silver medals Wednesday in London.
Demus finished second in the women’s 400-meter hurdles at 52.77 seconds, the fastest second-place Olympic time in history, and Richardson claimed silver in the 110-meter hurdles at 13.04.
Having struggled with injuries all season and battling back problems in London, Demus ran a composed race. Jamaica’s Kaliese Spencer got out well in the outside lane, with Demus and Natalya Antyukh of Russia close behind. The Russian moved into the lead halfway through and had a stride and a half lead on Demus coming off the penultimate hurdle.
The 2008 silver medalist and 2011 world champion, Demus closed hard as both women lunged for the finish. Antyukh won in a personal-best time of 52.70, with Demus second in a season-best of 52.77. Zuzana Hejnova of the Czech Republic won bronze in 53.88.
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“I can’t explain how bad I wanted a gold,” Demus said. “I have been dreaming about it for years. So many people were supporting me. I am grateful I got on the podium. Number two in the world says a lot but number one says a lot more so I won’t stop till I get that. I’m a fighter, I have always been one.”
The 2011 World Outdoor champion, Richardson was slightly sluggish out of the blocks but passed world record holder Dayron Robles of Cuba over the fourth hurdle to move into second. He finished in 13.04 to win the silver medal, holding off Hansle Parchment of Jamaica, who was third in 13.12.
“You don’t train to get second,” Richardson said. “I’m so happy for Aries (Merritt, gold medalist from USA). I made a few tactical errors but I didn’t give up. The best man won here today. It is an honor to be part of a race with two American medals. I am very happy for the experience. If I am satisfied with silver then there is no hope for gold, so I will keep that hunger.”
“I feel like I lost that race,” Richardson said. “I don’t train to believe that anybody is better. What I believe is that if I run a good race, a clean race, that I can come out on top, and I wasn’t able to do that today. But I can say that I live to run another day. My feet are fine, so I can spike up, and I can hurdle again.”
Merritt and Richardson gave the U.S. its first gold-silver finish in the event since 1996, when Allen Johnson and Mark Crear claimed the top two spots in Atlanta. No American had won gold since.
Merritt’s 12.92 was a personal-best and the second-fastest ever in the Olympics.
“I was really pleased that the race had finally come to an end with me the victor when I finally crossed the line,” Merritt said. “I’ve worked so hard for this moment, and who knows if I’ll ever get this chance again. It’s a once in a lifetime moment, and I’m just going to live it. I’m the champion.”
Natasha Hastings is the final Gamecock that might compete in London 2012. A member of the United States 4x400-meter relay pool, Hastings could hit the track in Friday’s heats or Saturday’s final if selected.