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Gail Devers Getty
27 Jul 1996
Atlanta 1996 , IOC News , Athletics

Devers wins battle of the sprint divas

The women’s 100m final in Atlanta brought together the three finest sprinters of their generation. The USAs’s Gail Devers was the defending champion and remained at the peak of her powers, but her great rival, and team-mate, Gwen Torrance, was also still going strong, as was Jamaica’s Merlene Ottey. The three runners had dominated the distance since Barcelona 1992. Devers won the 1993 World Championship title by a hair's breadth from Ottey – a race that many observers (and Ottey herself) thought should actually have been scored as a dead heat – while Torrance won the 1995 title. All three arrived in Atlanta fully believing that they could win gold.

Torrance had one advantage – she was racing at home. She had been born within walking distance of the stadium, and so could truly call the Atlanta crowd her own.

However, it was Devers who shone early on. She set the fastest times in both the opening rounds and then won her semi-final to arrive in the final in fine form. The other semi-final saw Ottey beat Torrance into second place, but both ran quicker than Devers. So there was still no clear indication as to who would prevail in the final.

As the starting pistol went, Devers sprinted into a strong lead. She looked comfortable and was still ahead at the halfway mark. Then, Ottey and Torrance began to close her down, and as they crossed the line it seemed like a blur. It was obvious that the three of them had taken the medals – but none of them knew which colour was theirs.

The video replay didn’t provide a clear answer, and the three athletes were left to stand out on the track, gazing up at the giant screen. The judges examined the photo finish and declared that Devers and Ottey had both crossed the line in 10.94 seconds, with Torrance 0.02 seconds further back. But Devers was declared the winner by a fractional margin.

Devers Wins Battle Of The Sprint Divas Inside IOC

Ottey went on to take another silver in the 200m. She went on to compete at both the 2000 and 2004 Games, finishing her Olympic career with a tally of three silvers, six bronzes, but no gold medals.

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