Formidable American team assembled for world athletics meet

CARSON (California): An American team blessed with youth and speed appears ready to expand on their glittering Olympic showing in August's world championships. 

Already an impressive sprint machine with Olympic winners Justin Gatlin, Shawn Crawford and Jeremy Wariner and world high hurdles champion Allen Johnson, the Americans have added to their gold-medal potential for Helsinki. 

There were sparkling performances from hurdlers Kerron Clement and Michelle Perry and 400m runner Sanya Richards in the cut-throat US trials over the weekend. 

JUBILATION: Michelle Perry (left) celebrates her victory in the women's 100m hurdleswith a time of 12.66 over Joanna Hayes (12.77) at the US Athletics Championships onSunday. – REUTERSpic

“It's going to be strongest US team in quite a few years,” Mel Watman, co-editor of Athletics International said after watching the four-day championships.  

The Americans bagged 25 medals at last year's Athens Olympics and the total could go higher in Helsinki. 

Clement, 19, certainly will be in line for one of them. 

The Trinidad-born athlete overwhelmed a solid 400m hurdles field on Sunday in a time of 47.24 seconds which made him the seventh-fastest man ever in the event. 

“He is the biggest come-through of the year,” Watman said of Clement, who broke Michael Johnson's indoor 400m world record, running 44.57 in March. 

“Even (Olympic champion Felix) Sanchez is going to be worried when he sees that sort of time.” 

Wariner, 21, spurted to the year's fastest 400m time of 44.20 and Gatlin became the first man in 20 years to win both the 100m and 200m in the same year at a US championships. 

Headwinds affected both his victories as the 23-year-old clocked 10.08 in the 100m and 20.04 in the 200m. 

The Americans could sweep the 200m and 400m with the support of 22-year-old Tyson Gay and Crawford in the 200m and the presence of Wariner's training partner Darold Williams and Andrew Rock in the longer race. 

The 100m will be more difficult with Jamaican world record holder Asafa Powell possessing the year's three fastest times. 

There is also potential US gold in the women's 200m and 400m and the 100m hurdles. 

Olympic silver medallist Allyson Felix, 19, delivered the year's fastest 200m time of 22.13 while 20-year-old Richards clocked a season's best 49.28.  

Lisa Barber moved into world medals' contention by winning the 100m in 11.10.  

Perry's switch this season from the heptathlon seems to be a wise move as the 26-year-old skimmed the 100m hurdles in a season-leading 12.43 in the semi-final. She won the final in 12.66 ahead of Olympic champion Joanna Hayes.  

Then there is Johnson. 

At 34, he is nearly twice as old as some of his team mates but he is the year's fastest 110m hurdler after recording 12.99 at the championships. 

The only major casualties from the meet were Olympic pole vault champion Tim Mack, who finished seventh, and former world 100m record holder Maurice Greene, who injured his hamstring in the final. 

But Greene could return for the 4x100m relay. – Reuters 

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