Aug. 24, 2004
- Tonique ATHENS, Greece – It was another amazing day at the track for USC-affiliated athletes at the Olympic Stadium Track that is. USC graduate Tonique Williams-Darling, of the Bahamas, won Olympic gold in the 400 meters Tuesday in 49.41 seconds, beating world champion Ana Guevara of Mexico. Williams-Darling is USC’s first women’s track and field gold medalist. Williams-Darling is the No. 1 ranked 400m runner in the world this year (by the IAAF) and remains undefeated. In addition, USC volunteer coach and App. State graduate Melissa Morrison won her second straight bronze medal in the 100m hurdles with a time of 12.56. Morrison has been training in Columbia under USC Head Coach Curtis Frye for six years. Earlier in the night, Aleen Bailey was second in her semi-finals of the 200m, making the finals with a time of 22.33. The finals are on Wednesday night. In addition to the 200m finals, Allen Johnson and Terrence Trammell will run the second round of the 110m hurdles. “She’s gonna win a medal in the 200m,” said USC Head Coach Curtis Frye. “She really looks good right now.” “It’s an honor to be the first person from the Bahamas to win a gold medal in track and field,” said Williams-Darling. “I am also thrilled I was able to represent the Gamecocks in such a manner. It’s been a long exciting year. Winning the medal – it’s sinking in. It’s a good feeling. Winning USC’s first gold medal – it means a lot because I remember when I came there they were a powerhouse in the field events, but not the track. We worked hard to help USC earn respect. Charmaine Howell and I were the first NCAA qualifiers for the school and for both of us to have Olympic medals now so that’s exciting. Now USC has a gold medal at that Olympics in track and field. Every institution wants those bragging rights. They will have many more medals because they have such a good program. I am excited to represent the Bahamas as well. They will be so excited.” Williams-Darling was also USC’s first All-American indoors in track and field when she finished fourth in the 400m. “We are just thrilled for Tonique,” said USC Head Coach Curtis Frye. “She was the Queen of the Sprints at USC at one time. She held every record from the 100m * 400m and with both relays. Some of those records have been broken but it means so much to the ladies who followed her, to have that kind of role model. USC has its first national championship in track and field and now it has its first gold medal in the Olympic Games. What a great day.” “I am a little disappointed,” said Morrison, a Kannapolis, NC native. “I was running so well and wanted the gold medal. But it I look at like I am the only medalist back on the medal stand from the 2000 Olympics, I am ok. (will she run in 2008?): I don’t know yet. I just take it one day at a time. I am happy for Joanna Hayes, the gold medalist (USA). She did a wonderful job tonight and I don’t want to take that away from her.” “What can I say about Melissa * she’s a class act,” said Frye. “She came here to win the gold medal and came away with the bronze, but she did it with class.” Williams-Darling, who trains in Norfolk, Va., with Steve Riddick, graduated from USC in 1999 with a Business degree. She made her Olympic debut in the 2000 Sydney Olympics, representing the Bahamas in the 400m, but did not make it past the first round. Behind Williams-Darling, Guevara ran a season-best 49.56 for silver, while Russian Natalya Antyukh took bronze in 49.89. The United States was shut out of a medal, one night after sweeping the men’s 400. USA Trials winner and Columbia native Monique Hennagan, a former USC volunteer coach, was fourth in 49.97. Williams-Darling, ranked No. 1 in the world, ended Guevara’s three-year unbeaten streak in Rome on July 2. Up to that point, Guevara had not lost since the 2001 world championships, but she missed more than two months of training earlier in the year because of tendinitis in her left Achilles tendon and ran in just three races leading up to the games.