Aug. 5, 2012
Dee Dee Trotter
LONDON -- Sunday was a very rewarding day for the Tennessee track & field program, as two highly-decorated alums raced to bronze medals at Olympic Stadium.
Former Lady Vol DeeDee Trotter and Vol product Justin Gatlin completed dramatic career comebacks by racing their way to bronze medals in the women's 400-meter dash and the men's 100-meter dash, respectively.
Three-time Olympian Trotter was the first to earn a spot on the podium. Making her first Olympic final appearance since placing fifth in the 400-meter dash in 2004, Trotter put together a season-best readout of 49.72 seconds to earn her second career medal at the Games to go along with a gold medal won with the USA 4x400m relay unit in 2004. She became the first Lady Vol to earn an individual event medal at the Olympics since LaVonna Martin grabbed silver in the 100m hurdles in 1992.
Trotter, who barely made the Olympics in 2008 after suffering several injuries, has gradually made the climb back to the elite level of sprinting she displayed in 2004. Racing confidently and aggressively, she went for the top spot on the podium on Sunday and led coming down the home stretch. She didn't have quite enough reserve left at the end, and American teammate Sanya Richards-Ross (49.55) and Great Britain's Christine Ohuruogu (49.70) overtook her for gold and silver.
"Getting out there and trying to really get after it, it came down to that home stretch and I was in a good position to take home the gold, but I just came up short," Trotter said. "I got snipped at the line for the silver, but to get a bronze medal and an individual medal has been the highlight of my career, I couldn't be prouder, all the glory to God for giving me the opportunity.
"I'm glad we brought the gold medal back home. Sanya Richards-Ross worked very hard. If anyone had to get it, I'm glad it was her. She has been working her butt off, and it is a lifetime dream for her. I'm very happy to see her have such a fantastic race and complete that dream."
Gatlin, who like Trotter starred at the 2004 Games, sped to a career-best 9.79 effort to grab third and complete an improbable comeback for a sprinter. If not for the Jamaican juggernaut of Usain Bolt (gold, Olympic record 9.63) and Yohan Blake (silver, 9.75), Gatlin would have been standing on the top rung of the victory stand for the USA.
The third-place effort resulted in the fourth Olympic medal of Gatlin's career. The winner of gold (100m), silver (4x100m relay) and bronze (200m) in 2004, Gatlin served a four-year ban from the sport and missed the 2008 Olympiad. Many felt his career was over, but the former Big Orange NCAA champion gradually proved the doubters wrong during his comeback and capped a return to prominence with his performance at the 2012 Games.
"It just feels good to be back," Gatlin said. "A dream. I have been sitting in my room, in the Village. I am here, eight years later. My journey, coming back - it has been a lot.
"I just wanted to get on that podium and to be there for my country. All of the people in the stands with flags. They are there for us, so I wanted to be there for them."
Trotter and Gatlin should have an additional medal opportunity in London. Both are part of the USA relay pools for the women's 4x400m unit and the men's 4x100m tandem, respectively. The first rounds of those events are set for Aug. 10.
Only one athlete with Tennessee ties will be in action the next two days. Former Vol Aries Merritt is slated to run in the first round of the men's 110m hurdles at 5:10 a.m. Eastern time on Tuesday.